Pakistanis Are Third Largest Foreign Investors in Dubai Real Estate

Pakistanis have invested $10.6 billion in Dubai real estate, ranking them as the third largest investors in the city on the Gulf. Indian investors lead Dubai real estate investments with $29.8 billion, followed by British investors' $14.7 billion investment. 

Wealth From Top 20 Countries Invested in Dubai Real Estate. Source: EU Tax Observatory

With at least $146 billion in foreign wealth invested, the Dubai property market is now the world's largest offshore investment market for foreign investors. It is now twice as large as the London real estate market in terms of wealth invested by foreigners through shell companies. There are nearly 20,000 unique foreign owners of Dubai real estate from Pakistan, the third largest number behind almost 35,000 Indian owners and about 23,000 owners from the United Kingdom, according to the EU Tax Observatory.


Unique Entities From Top 20 Countries Owning Dubai Real Estate. Source: EU Tax Observatory



The record flow of foreign wealth into Dubai real estate has drawn the attention of the FATF (the Financial Action Task Force), the global anti-money-laundering  watchdog. The UAE is now "under increased monitoring” (often referred to as the grey list) by the FATF.  It is widely accepted that real estate is used for money laundering and hiding wealth from tax authorities.

Money Laundering Risk. Source: FATF


Many rich Pakistanis, including top politicians and their family members, own real estate in Dubai, according to press reports. Most of the top politicians from Pakistani political parties like PPP, PML-N, ANP and MQM own Dubai real estate.  A 2020 Transparency International report said the following about Dubai's attraction to foreign unexplained wealth: 

"The UAE’s booming construction and real estate sector emerges as another major weakness. It accounts for a fifth of the Emirates’ GDP, but remains incredibly vulnerable to money laundering. Complex ownership structures can be used to obscure the identity of those buying property, as well as where their money is coming from".

"Despite the UAE’s role as a major international hub for finance and trade, the report concludes that authorities there are not cooperating with international partners. This could make the Emirates an attractive location in which “criminals could operate, maintain their illegal proceeds, or use it as a safe haven.”

"The FATF report confirms what investigative journalists, anti-corruption activists and whistleblowers have been saying for years: the UAE is a key piece in the global money-laundering puzzle. Its susceptibility to money laundering has seen it appear time and again in major cross-border corruption scandals". 

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
HOUSE OF GRAFT: Tracing the Bhutto Millions -- A special report.; Bhutto Clan Leaves Trail of Corruption

https://www.nytimes.com/1998/01/09/world/house-graft-tracing-bhutto-millions-special-report-bhutto-clan-leaves-trail.html

Officials leading the inquiry in Pakistan say that the $100 million they have identified so far is only a small part of a windfall from corrupt activities. They maintain that an inquiry begun in Islamabad just after Ms. Bhutto's dismissal in 1996 found evidence that her family and associates generated more than $1.5 billion in illicit profits through kickbacks in virtually every sphere of government activity -- from rice deals, to the sell-off of state land, even rake-offs from state welfare schemes.

The Pakistani officials say their key break came last summer, when an informer offered to sell documents that appeared to have been taken from the Geneva office of Jens Schlegelmilch, whom Ms. Bhutto described as the family's attorney in Europe for more than 20 years, and as a close personal friend. Pakistani investigators have confirmed that the original asking price for the documents was $10 million. Eventually the seller traveled to London and concluded the deal for $1 million in cash.

The identity of the seller remains a mystery. Mr. Schlegelmilch, 55, developed his relationship with the Bhutto family through links between his Iranian-born wife and Ms. Bhutto's mother, who was also born in Iran. In a series of telephone interviews, he declined to say anything about Mr. Zardari and Ms. Bhutto, other than that he had not sold the documents. ''It wouldn't be worth selling out for $1 million,'' he said.

The documents included: statements for several accounts in Switzerland, including the Citibank accounts in Dubai and Geneva; letters from executives promising payoffs, with details of the percentage payments to be made; memorandums detailing meetings at which these ''commissions'' and ''remunerations'' were agreed on, and certificates incorporating the offshore companies used as fronts in the deals, many registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The documents also revealed the crucial role played by Western institutions. Apart from the companies that made payoffs, and the network of banks that handled the money -- which included Barclay's Bank and Union Bank of Switzerland as well as Citibank -- the arrangements made by the Bhutto family for their wealth relied on Western property companies, Western lawyers and a network of Western friends.

As striking as some of the payoff deals was the clinical way in which top Western executives concluded them. The documents showed painstaking negotiations over the payoffs, followed by secret contracts. In one case, involving Dassault, the contract specified elaborate arrangements intended to hide the proposed payoff for the fighter plane deal, and to prevent it from triggering French corruption laws.


Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan PM #ShehbazSharif Calls Himself A "Majnoo" In Court. #FIA found 28 benami accounts, allegedly of Shehbaz family, through which an amount of Pakistan Rupee 14 billion ($75 million) was laundered from 2008 to 2018 Via 17,000 transactions. https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/pakistan-pm-shehbaz-sharif-calls-himself-a-majnoo-in-court-heres-why-3017169 via @ndtv

Lahore: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif testified today in a special court hearing in the Pakistan Rupee 16 billion money laundering case against him that he had refused to take any salary when he was the Chief Minister of Pakistan's Punjab province, and called himself a "majnoo" for doing so.
Shehbaz Sharif and his sons - Hamza and Suleman - were charged by Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency or FIA in November 2020 under various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Anti-Money Laundering Act.

Hamza Sharif is currently the Chief Minister of Pakistan's Punjab province, while Suleman Sharif is residing in the UK.

The FIA investigation has detected 28 benami accounts, allegedly of the Shehbaz family, through which an amount of Pakistan Rupee 14 billion (USD 75 million) was laundered from 2008 to 2018.

The FIA examined the money trail of 17,000 credit transactions.

The amount was kept in "hidden accounts" and given to Shehbaz Sharif in his personal capacity, according to the charges.

"I have not taken anything from the government in 12.5 years, and in this case, I am accused of laundering ₹ 2.5 million," Shehbaz Sharif said during the hearing.

"God has made me the Prime Minister of this country. I am a majnoo (fool) and I did not take my legal right, my salary and benefits," Pakistan's Dawn newspaper quoted him as saying.

He recalled that the secretary had sent a note to him for sugar exports during his tenure as Chief Minister of Punjab province, when he had set an export limit and rejected the notes, the report said.

Shehbaz Sharif first became Chief Minister of Punjab province in 1997 when his brother Nawaz Sharif was the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Following General Pervez Musharraf's coup in 1999 toppling the Nawaz Sharif government, Shehbaz Sharif along with the family spent eight years in exile in Saudi Arabia before returning to Pakistan in 2007.

He became Pakistan's Punjab Chief Minister for the second term in 2008 and he grabbed the same slot for the third time in 2013.

"My family lost PKR 2 billion because of my decision. I am telling you the reality. When my son's ethanol production plant was being set up, I still decided to impose a duty on ethanol. My family lost PKR 800 million annually because of that decision. The previous government withdrew that notification stating that it was injustice with the sugar mills," he claimed.

The Prime Minister's counsel argued that the laundering case was "politically motivated" and "based on mala fide intentions" by the erstwhile government headed by Imran Khan.

During the previous hearing on May 21, the special court had issued arrest warrants against Suleman Sharif, in the case after extending the interim bails of Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Sharif till May 28.

Riaz Haq said…
Asset declarations to be made public under IMF condition
Govt can exempt judiciary, armed forces’ members from disclosure

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2334492/asset-declarations-to-be-made-public-under-imf-condition


The government is walking a tight rope to implement all conditions by end of this month, if it is keen to get the IMF Board’s approval for the loan tranche on January 12.


The sources said that the IMF has imposed another condition that the high-level public office holders and the civil servants of basic pay scale (BPS) 17 and above, their spouses, children or benamidars, or any person in relation to whom these persons are beneficial owners will file their asset declarations with the Federal Board of Revenue. These assets will be then made public.

The government has also defined the high-level public officials who will be required to file their declarations which will be made public. An amendment is being drafted where only politically exposed persons defined by a rule, regulation, executive order or instrument; or under any law for the time being in force would be required to file their declarations, the sources said.

The government had resisted the demand to ensure compulsory declaration on the grounds that these people were already required to submit their asset details in the Establishment Division. However, the IMF did not agree to it and instead asked Pakistan that such declarations should be filed with the tax authorities.

However, many bureaucrats did not file their asset declarations, nor did they submit their annual income tax returns, including many taxmen.

The IMF’s view was that any important position holder drawing salary from the budget should disclose assets to ensure transparency.

“The disclosure of information in respect of high-level public officials is proposed in line with the requirements of the development partners, rule of law and integrity,” the note sent by the FBR chairman to the finance adviser about changes being made in the tax laws read.

However, the government has found a way out where the declarations filed by members of the armed forces would not be made public, the sources said, adding that the exception has been created by Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem.

Barrister Naseem was not available for comments.

The sources said that the requirement of non-disclosure of the asset declarations would not be applicable on those who were currently exempted from the applicability of the National Accountability Ordinance.

A proviso is likely to be inserted in the law that will state that nothing in clause (t) shall apply to those who are expressly exempted under clause (iv) of sub-section (m) of Section 5 of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.

What Clause 5 (m) (iv) says?

A person who is holding, or has held, an office or post in the service of Pakistan, or any service in connection with the affairs of the Federation, or of a province, or of a local council constituted under any federal or provincial law relating to the constitution of local councils, or in the management of corporations, banks, financial institutions, firms, concerns, undertakings or any other institution or organisation established, controlled or administered by or under the federal government or a provincial government, other than a person who is a member of any of the armed forces of Pakistan, or for the time being is subject to any law relating to any of the said forces, except a person who is, or has been a member of the said forces and is holding, or has held, a post or office in any public corporation, bank, financial institution, undertaking or other organisation established, controlled or administered by or under the federal government or a provincial government.

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