Pakistan demands answers over its nationals’ UAE property investments worth billions

Cricket star-turned-Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan speaks after voting in the general election in Islamabad, July 25, 2018. Reuters

Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has informed the country’s Supreme Court that 895 Pakistanis have been identified to own properties worth at least $15.5 billion in the United Arab Emirates and 200 of them have been issued notices to produce documents showing their ownership of the properties.

Anwar Mansoor Khan, the Attorney General of Pakistan, submitted a detailed report before the judges on the behalf of the FIA in the foreign properties case headed by the Chief Justice Saqib Nisar.

In February, Mr Nisar took up the case of the properties and bank accounts of the Pakistani citizens abroad and summoned the officials from State Bank of Pakistan, Finance Ministry, Federal Board of Revenue and Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan.

The Supreme Court said the money used to buy the properties was siphoned off through illegal means without paying taxes to the state.

Director General of the FIA Bashir Memon said: “200 Pakistanis who own properties in UAE have been issued notices. These people will not be harassed and we will take no action against them if they prove the properties were made legally and money from Pakistan was sent through legal ways”.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s adviser on accountability Shahzad Akbar said the government has traced a total 10,000 properties owned by Pakistanis abroad, mainly in UAE and UK. “We have got details of three housing societies in Dubai owned by Pakistanis,” he said.

“This is a great achievement”, Mr Akbar added. “Imran Khan has formed a special task force to ensure bringing back the money sent abroad through illegal channels.”

Commenting on the case also being heard in the Supreme Court from February, the adviser on accountability said: “The apex court (Supreme Court) was alone fighting this case to bring money back to Pakistan from the UAE and now the government is also supporting the court in this case.”

Mr Mansoor, however, requested the top court gives two weeks to investigate further proceedings for the recovery of money from Pakistanis made through illegal properties in the UAE. Last month, the court ordered the FIA to give details on the legality of 2,700 properties owned by Pakistanis in the UAE.

Pakistan’s newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan repeatedly said to bring back looted money from abroad. Mr Khan, even before recent elections, launched anti-corruption and money laundering investigations in the Supreme Court and one of them resulted in the ousting and disqualification of three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Pakistanis in Dubai are among the top 10 investors in the land property and real estate industry sectors. According to the Dubai Land Department director general, Sultan Butti bin Mejran, the Pakistani diaspora’s investment in the UAE now crossed $15.5 billion (AED57 billion) made through 46,058 real estate investments by 32,083 Pakistani investors in the past decade.

More than 1.4 million Pakistanis are living in UAE, the second largest group in the Gulf country. The two countries have strong economic relations and the UAE is the second biggest trading partner of Pakistan.