NAB chairman orders 'immediate' inquiry into offshore companies of 435 Pakistanis

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Javed Iqbal has ordered an immediate inquiry into the companies held by 435 Pakistanis in tax havens abroad, media reported.

The chairman ordered the inquiry after taking notice of 435 offshore companies held by Pakistanis in Panama and the British Virgin Islands, a press release issued by the Bureau said.

The inquiry into offshore holdings of Pakistanis will proceed without “any fear or favour”, NAB said.

The bureau has asked the Federal Investigation Agency, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, State Bank of Pakistan and FBR to provide information regarding offshore companies owned by Pakistanis.

The Supreme Court had last month sent notices to NAB and the federal government seeking reports on action taken against Pakistanis named in the Panama Papers.

The Panama Papers, a massive investigation into secretive offshore companies owned by the world’s political and business elite, had sparked controversy in several countries last year. At home, their publication led to the disqualification of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

It should be pointed out here that the setting up of off-shore companies is, in itself, not a criminal act and has many legitimate uses.

However: “These companies are established for tax-evasion purposes,” the lawyer arguing on behalf of the petitioner had alleged. “Action should be taken against those who engaged in money-laundering.”