Panama Papers: private member’s bill to be tabled in Senate tomorrow

A private member’s bill titled ‘Panama Papers Inquires Act, 2016’, seeking formation of a commission to conduct an inquiry into the Panama papers, under the terms of reference (ToRs) already proposed by the joint opposition, will be presented in Senate on Monday.

Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar told Business Recorder that the bill has been included on the agenda for Monday (September 26) and will be tabled in Senate on Monday. In the bill, ‘Panama Papers Inquires Act 2016’, the opposition has sought a legal process for inquiries into the transnational and trans-jurisdictional secret transfers and deposits of vast sums of Pakistani rupees and resources by persons whose names have been disclosed in the Panama Papers.

“This new special law is designed to facilitate the state through specific provisions providing for effective transnational and trans-jurisdictional tracing and outreach to uncover all those secreted funds, assets and properties,” reads the Statement of Objects of the bill.

The bill suggests the federal government shall make a reference to the chief justice of Pakistan to nominate three judges of the apex court with the senior-most judge being chairman of the commission or if the CJP himself is a member, he shall be the chairman.

The commission will have the powers to constitute a national or international joint investigation team or teams and seek co-operation from foreign countries and agencies in accordance with the UN Convention against corruption and other related conventions and laws. It will also be able to hire services of advocates of good repute to assist in an inquiry or inquiries.

The commission will also be able to appoint a committee of experts in international forensic audit to carry out an exhaustive investigation and audit into the offshore companies and their accounts. “It shall be critical duty of the committee to verify and report to the commission the money trail [during the period 1985 to 2016] which provided funds for such offshore companies and the consequential payments out of such funds for investments and other financial transactions,” it added.

The bill mentions a timeframe of three months to one year to conclude inquiry/inquiries. The commission will start its inquiry from persons and their families who have publicly admitted [like in the case of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif] of holding offshore companies as revealed in the Panama leaks.

“Inquiries in respect of other respondents [who have been named in Panama Papers but they have not publicly admitted] shall only be commenced thereafter and be concluded in 12-month,” suggests the bill.

The commission will have powers to summon any person or authority during the course of proceedings to furnish information and documents irrespective of any privilege (immunity) available under any law to said person.

“Privilege in no case shall be claimed with respect to assets already admitted through application to the commission or in a public statement by the respondent,” it adds.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2016