UAE not obliged to share bank data of Pakistani iqama holders — experts

A policeman walks past the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) office building in Islamabad, August 29, 2018. (REUTERS/File)
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Updated 11 December 2019

UAE not obliged to share bank data of Pakistani iqama holders — experts

  • Pakistan has regretted UAE's non-cooperation over sharing asset details of expats
  • Islamabad struggles to track foreign assets purchased by Pakistanis with allegedly ill-gotten gains

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan government's move to seek access to the actionable bank account information of its taxpayers in the UAE might have hit a snag, international law experts said on Tuesday.

Pakistan believes its nationals are allegedly hiding behind UAE residence permits (iqama) to conceal their wealth and other tax-related information.

On Monday, the government expressed its regrets over non-cooperation from the UAE with regard to the assets obtained by its citizens in the Emirates with ill-gotten money.

However, experts argue that authorities cannot force the UAE to share information on the movable and immovable assets purchased by Pakistani nationals who hold Emirati residence permits.

“It is the sole prerogative of the UAE government to share or refuse (to share) the sought information,” barrister Omer Malik, international law expert, told Arab News. “The UAE government may violate the right to privacy of an iqama holder if it opts to share his assets and tax-related information with Pakistan.”

In a letter to the UAE Ministry of Finance, Pakistan's Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had accused “delinquent tax residents” of having “siphoned off funds out of Pakistan” and “circumventing” the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) common reporting standard (CRS) regarding financial account information, which includes periodic exchange of taxpayer information.

The FBR asked the UAE Ministry of Finance to provide information on “all those Pakistanis” who had sought the UAE iqama under Residence by Investment (RBI) schemes

Malik suggested that Pakistani tax authorities do their homework before seeking information from the UAE. 

“Our government will never be able to get any actionable information if it continues seeking details of its nationals in bulk,” he said. “Our tax officials should track a certain number of individuals, and then seek information about them.”

Pakistan became a member of the OECD in 2016.

Under the CRS mechanism, Pakistan received information of some 3,620 accounts of its nationals in the UAE in August, but said that “the number of material accounts with a substantial balance is negligible.”

Dubai real estate market data shows that Pakistanis were among the top 10 foreign investors in property in the UAE in 2018. Pakistani authorities suspect that its nationals who hold the UAE iqama have been using it to hide their illegal wealth in the Emirates.

“No country including the UAE will share any actionable information and evidence of money-laundering or tax evasion with Pakistan until bilateral agreements for the purpose are signed,” Habibullah Khan, Supreme Court advocate and expert on international tax laws, told Arab News.

He said that it would be “almost impossible” for the government to prosecute people based on information gathered from other countries. “It is a futile exercise, but our politicians do it to play with the galleries,” he said.

The FBR has requested the UAE “to provide a well-laid-out roadmap” on obtaining the information on iqama holders. However, the UAE “has not responded to all earlier written requests of FBR in this regard,” it said in a statement.


At least 105 killed, 96 injured by extreme weather in Pakistan

Updated 17 January 2020

At least 105 killed, 96 injured by extreme weather in Pakistan

  • The majority of casualties have been reported in Azad Kashmir
  • In Balochistan, all blocked roads are already open for traffic

ISLAMABAD: At least 105 people have been killed and 96 injured by avalanches, landslides and other extreme weather-related incidents, mainly in Azad Kashmir, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) confirmed on Friday.
The number of destroyed houses has risen to nearly 1,300 as rescue efforts continue and more reports are arriving.

Rescue workers clear a snow-covered road to make way for an ambulance to reach the areas affected by heavy snowfall and avalanches, in Neelum Valley near line of control (LoC) in Pakistan on Jan. 14, 2020. (REUTERS)

The majority of casualties have been reported in Azad Kashmir, where heavy rains and snowfall triggered avalanches, especially in the Neelum Valley area.
The avalanches and other rain-related incidents have killed 78 people, NDMA spokesman Saqib Mumtaz, told Arab News on Thursday evening. Fifty-six people were injured in the region.
“Food and non-food relief items including tents, blankets, first aid kits, tarpaulins, kitchen accessories, plastic mats and mattresses were distributed in the affected areas of district Neelum Valley,” the NDMA said in an earlier statement.

A man removes snow from outside his house after heavy snowfall, in Keran, a small town in Neelum Valley, in Azad Kashmir on Jan. 14, 2020. (AP)

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday visited Muzaffarabad, the capital city of Azad Kashmir, to review the ground situation and see the injured at a military hospital in Muzaffarabad.
In Balochistan, local government spokesman Liaquat Shahwani said that 20 people were killed in various extreme weather-related incidents in the province. “The situation is under control and all stranded people have been rescued,” he said. According to NDMA, another 23 people were wounded.

Rescue and relief efforts are underway on Jan. 15. (Photo courtesy: ISPR)

Five people died and 13 were injured in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while two people died and four were injured in Gilgit-Baltistan, according to the NDMA’s data from Friday.
Government authorities are working to clear the roads in the affected areas. In Balochistan, all are already open for traffic.
The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) has warned that heavy rains and snow in northwestern parts of Balochistan may result in flash floods. The province has recorded the heaviest snowfall in two decades, according to the PMD.

Local residents carry water pots above their heads as they walk back to their homes after heavy snowfall in Khanozai area some 75 kms in northeast of the provincial capital Quetta on Jan. 14, 2020. (AFP)

A westerly wave has also engulfed the upper parts of the country, the PMD said in a statement on Tuesday, forecasting cold and dry weather in most parts of Pakistan and extremely frigid climate in north Balochistan.
Floods in Balochistan have reportedly affected the freight train service between Pakistan and Iran.