Pakistan's Multi Billion dollar properties in Dubai

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swamidada
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Joined: Sun Aug 02, 2020 8:59 pm

Pakistan's Multi Billion dollar properties in Dubai

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Dubai unlocked: Pakistan’s multi-billion dollar property pie
Details — an astounding volume of leaked property data that includes over 23,000 properties listed as belonging to Pakistani nationals up to the spring of 2022 — are unveiled after a six-month-long investigation.
Atika Rehman | Naziha Syed Ali Published May 14, 2024 Updated about 6 hours ago

Note: The property data at the heart of the project comes from a series of leaks of more than 100 datasets. Most of the data comes from the Dubai Land Department, as well as publicly owned utility companies. The data includes the listed owner of each property, as well as other identifying information such as his or her date of birth, passport number, and nationality. In some cases, the data captured renters instead of owners.

Journalists used the data as a starting point to explore the landscape of foreign property ownership in Dubai. They spent months verifying the identities of the people who appeared in the leaked data, as well as confirming their ownership status, using official records, open source research, and other leaked datasets. They identified many Dubai property owners whose presence in the emirate is in the public interest to report on, including people who have been accused or convicted of crimes, face international sanctions, or are politically exposed persons (PEPs).

Officials in Pakistan have tried in recent years to unearth details of Pakistani citizens who own assets in Dubai with an aim to bring undeclared assets and income into the tax net. But they have made little headway.

Dubai authorities are reluctant to share information about something as simple as the number of Pakistani citizens with Dubai residence visas, commonly known as iqamas or Emirates IDs. There is also a political element to the stonewalling: Pakistan doesn’t have the geopolitical clout to demand this information.

Today, those details — an astounding volume of leaked property data that includes over 23,000 properties listed as belonging to Pakistani nationals up to the spring of 2022 — are at the fingertips of journalists from scores of media outlets around the world.

The leaked data provides a detailed overview of hundreds of thousands of properties in Dubai and information about their ownership or usage, largely from 2020 and 2022. It was obtained by the Center for Advanced Defence Studies (C4ADS), a non-profit organisation based in Washington, D.C., that researches international crime and conflict.

It was then shared with Norwegian financial outlet E24 and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which coordinated an investigative project with media outlets from around the world. Titled ‘Dubai Unlocked’, the collaboration includes 74 partners from 58 countries. Dawn is part of that collaboration.

A mere mention in the data is not evidence in itself of financial crime or tax fraud. Nor does the data contain information such as residence status, sources of income, tax declarations of rental income or capital gains. In fact, several of those approached by Dawn for comment on their properties said they were declared to the tax authorities.

But it does paint an astonishing picture of contrasts. Pakistan, a developing country teetering on the edge of economic collapse, begging international lenders and friendly countries for lifelines in single digit billions, features prominently in the data.

While 17,000 Pakistani citizens are listed owners in the 2022 leak, academics using the data and additional sources put the actual number of Pakistani owners of residential property in Dubai at 22,000. They further estimate that the apartments and villas may have been worth more than $10 billion at the start of 2022, but with the more than 25 per cent increase in property prices over the last two years, the real worth of Pakistanis’ residential properties in Dubai could now be well above $12.5bn.

Prominent names include the children of President Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari; wife of Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi, Ms Ashraf; Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon; MNA Ikhtiar Baig; son of PML-N president Nawaz Sharif, Hussain Nawaz; son of retired General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Saad Siddique Bajwa; Senator Faisal Vawda, Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, Akhtar Mengal and PML-N MNA Ehsanul Haq Bajwa.

Many of the properties linked to the above mentioned individuals have been declared.

“If we have the data you are talking about, as well as the information on residence status, we will make sure those who are eligible to pay tax in Pakistan on rental income or capital value are doing so,” Malik Amjed Zubair Tiwana, chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) tells Dawn. “It may be a sensitive matter, and perhaps the law will have to change, but with political will we will go all out against tax evaders. The government is prepared for this.”

He added that “citizenship has no importance in tax law” as taxation is linked to residence status. “We have been trying to get information from the immigration department of Dubai to determine tax status, but it has not materialised.”

Ali Rahim, tax lawyer and former Karachi Tax Bar Association president, explains how tax laws apply to Pakistanis with overseas assets. “The entire world income of resident Pakistanis is liable to be taxed in Pakistan, but they can get credit against their total tax payment for any taxes paid abroad.”

Pakistani residents (those in the country for more than 183 days per year) with assets abroad have to value them at the current exchange rate and pay one per cent tax on that if the value of the asset is more than Rs100 million. This law is being challenged in the high courts and the Supreme Court.

Non-resident or overseas Pakistanis are only liable to pay tax on income generated in Pakistan. They are not required to file a wealth statement or declare overseas assets.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1833476/dubai ... operty-pie
swamidada
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Joined: Sun Aug 02, 2020 8:59 pm

Re: Pakistan's Multi Billion dollar properties in Dubai

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Global players feature in Dubai property leaks
Indians rank top among foreign owners with 35,000 properties estimated at $17 billion as of 2022.
Dawn Report Published May 14, 2024 Updated about 7 hours ago

Note: A mere mention in the data is not evidence in itself of financial crime or tax fraud. Nor does the data contain information such as residence status, sources of income, tax declarations of rental income or capital gains. Names of properties linked to senior political or military officials have been mentioned in the public interest.

After a six-month investigation led by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Norwegian outlet E24, reporters from 74 partners in 58 countries uncovered scores of convicted criminals, fugitives, political figures accused of corruption or their associates, and sanctioned individuals who have recently owned at least one piece of real estate in Dubai.

According to the leak of 2022 data assessed by economists and reporters, the number of residential properties owned by foreigners put Indians first, at 35,000 properties and 29,700 owners. The total value of these properties is estimated at $17 billion that same year.

Owners with Pakistani nationality come second among foreigners at 17,000 owners of 23,000 residential properties.

UK citizens in the 2022 sample own 22,000 residential properties and 19,500 owners, valued at $10bn, whereas Saudi nationals are listed with 16,000 properties and 8,500 owners, valued at $8.5 billion.

From the 37th floor of Dubai’s tallest skyscraper, the wife of an alleged Bosnian cartel member posted video after video on TikTok of the couple’s sleek rental apartment, often featuring their grey cat.

The images provided just enough clues for reporters to identify the apartment’s precise location in the city’s iconic Burj Khalifa skyscraper — and the fact that it belonged to another target of law enforcement: Candido Nsue Okomo, the former head of Equatorial Guinea’s scandal-plagued national oil company, who is under investigation for money laundering in Spain. Okomo is also the brother-in-law of long-term President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, whose family is accused by French prosecutors of looting the African country’s public resources, which are heavily reliant on oil revenues.

It’s unclear whether the tenant, Dženis Kadrić, and his landlord Okomo knew of each other’s alleged misdeeds. But their convergence in a lease agreement is emblematic of modern-day Dubai, where secrecy and years of permissive policies have left its property rolls riddled with disreputable owners.

In the case of Okomo’s high-rise apartment, reporters from OCCRP’s Serbian partner KRIK first used TikTok videos to link the unit to the Kadrić, a former policeman who was arrested in Bosnia in February on suspicion of participation in organised crime, drug smuggling, and money laundering. He was released in May but remains under investigation.

Geolocation specialists from the investigative outlet Bellingcat then used the videos to identify the specific apartment. Okomo’s ownership was confirmed by a 2023 rental contract and his listing in a tranche of leaked property data.

Not far from Okomo’s Burj Khalifa property is an apartment in the Burj Lake Hotel owned by Shwan Mohammad Almulla, an Iraqi-born British national who was indicted in the US in 2021 over a bribery scheme to obtain millions in reconstruction contracts for Iraq.

Down the coast at the Grandeur Residences, a building on Dubai’s palm-shaped artificial archipelago, is a unit belonging to Joseph Johannes Leijdekkers, a 32-year-old also known as ‘Chubby Jos’ who is on the European Union’s Most Wanted List for alleged narcotics trafficking.

And in the nearby Palm Tower Dubai, sits a flat owned by Danilo Vunjao Santana Gouveia, a Brazilian businessman who goes by Dubaiano. Indicted on charges of money laundering and fraud for allegedly running a massive Bitcoin pyramid scheme in his home country, he has since taken up a career as a musician in Dubai, which he details on an Instagram account alongside photographs of him posing in front of various locations in the city, including the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab Jumeirah skyscraper.

These and numerous other property owners verified by OCCRP and its partners should have immediately raised red flags under any basic risk assessment. Yet none of the individuals were apparently prevented from buying properties in their own names. (Kadrić, Okomo, Almulla, Leijdekkers, and Santana Gouveia did not respond to requests for comment.)

Reporters used the data as a starting point to explore the landscape of foreign property ownership in Dubai. They spent months verifying the identities of the people who appeared in the leaked data, as well as confirming their ownership status, using official records, open-source research, and other leaked datasets.

From Australian cocaine traffickers to the relatives of West African dictators and a coterie of sanctioned Hezbollah financiers, the findings reveal how the city has opened its arms to unscrupulous characters from around the globe.

“Corrupt actors and politically exposed individuals avoiding public accountability use secrecy jurisdictions like the UAE to hide assets in plain sight,” said Maria Giuditta Borselli, a portfolio manager at C4ADS.

UAE officials — including at the ministries of interior, economy, and justice — and Dubai Police did not respond to detailed questions, but the country’s embassies in the UK and Norway sent a brief response to reporters, saying that the country “takes its role in protecting the integrity of the global financial system extremely seriously.”

Today, Dubai is a global financial hub that boasts one of the world’s most recognisable skylines — a futuristic steel jungle where business leaders ink billions of dollars in deals, influencers model an existence draped in luxury, and Tom Cruise scales the world’s tallest building for a blockbuster film franchise.

The Gulf city is far from the only place where criminals and others have successfully stashed their wealth in luxury properties. New York City and London real estate have also been known to attract dirty money.

But experts say Dubai has a lot to offer, and not just in terms of its vast array of high-end skyscrapers and villas.

One pull factor, experts say, has been the emirate’s inconsistent responses to requests from foreign authorities for help arresting and extraditing fugitives.

Until recently, the UAE lacked extradition treaties with many countries, helping turn Dubai into a magnet for fugitives from around the globe. While UAE authorities have increased cooperation with foreign law enforcement in recent years, the government is still known for inconsistent responses to extradition requests.

The India-born Gupta brothers, who are accused of looting South Africa’s public funds through their close links with the country’s former President Jacob Zuma, offer a recent example.

Despite an extradition treaty between the two nations, last year the UAE quietly dismissed South Africa’s request to extradite Atul and Rajesh Gupta, who face charges of money laundering and fraud. The move shocked South Africa, where authorities have said the UAE failed to provide “satisfactory responses” on the reasons behind the rejection.

A UAE official did not reply to specific questions about the Guptas, but said it “works closely with international partners to disrupt and deter all forms of illicit finance.” The Guptas and Zuma did not respond to requests for comment.

When asked about the country’s record on extraditions, Sauod Abdulaziz Almutawa, the head of Dubai Police’s financial crime centre stressed the recent arrests of those with red notices and said that extradition requests, which must pass through local courts, take longer to process and often face challenges from deep-pocketed defence teams.

“We are increasing our capacity, increasing and developing our resources … to meet the expectations of our foreign counterparts,” he added in an interview with Swedish Television (SVT) in March.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1833481/globa ... erty-leaks
swamidada
Posts: 1496
Joined: Sun Aug 02, 2020 8:59 pm

Re: Pakistan's Multi Billion dollar properties in Dubai

Post by swamidada »

Castles in the sand: politicians in Dubai leaks
A slew of elected officials and Politically Exposed Persons have invested in Dubai real estate.
Naziha Syed Ali Published May 15, 2024 Updated about 9 hours ago

Note: A mere mention in the data is not evidence in itself of financial crime or tax fraud. Nor does the data contain information such as residence status, sources of income, tax declarations of rental income or capital gains. Names of properties linked to senior political or military officials have been mentioned in the public interest.

As may be expected, several elected officials and Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) have a significant presence in the Dubai leaks, that cover property ownership up to the spring of 2022. Many are household names; some are no strangers to controversy; a few have been embroiled in mega financial scandals.

Surprisingly, however, there are some Pakistani families (both political and from the business world) who are widely known to have a base and family homes in Dubai, but are conspicuous by their absence in the property leaks. This underscores that the data, though robust, is neither a historic account of property ownership nor is it a complete picture of all properties bought by Pakistanis there. Many owners remain undetected, especially those who purchased property via a lesser-known third party, or lesser-known company.

Among the A-listers on the political landscape are President Zardari’s children, two of whom are elected representatives. Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari, a Dubai resident, and MNAs Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Aseefa Bhutto Zardari are listed as owners of four properties between them.

The three siblings are joint owners of two apartments, one in Al Saffa and another in Jumeirah. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has declared these two properties in his statement of assets and liabilities submitted to the ECP. (According to the Election Act, 2017, each year before Dec 31, every parliamentarian is required to submit a statement of their assets and liabilities as well as that of their spouse and dependent children as held on the last day of the preceding fiscal year.)

Ms Bakhtawar’s real estate portfolio also includes a four-bedroom penthouse in 23 Marina, an 88-storey residential skyscraper that is among the tallest such buildings in the world. Transaction data obtained by Norwegian financial outlet E24 and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) reveals that the property was purchased in 2014 for AED 11,500,000 or $3,130,972 (calculated at the current exchange rate of AED3.6 to a dollar). The Dubai Land Department (DLD) system shows that it is still owned by Ms Bakhtawar, and is being rented. It should be noted that as a non-resident Ms Bakhtawar is not liable to be taxed in Pakistan on her overseas rental income.

The 23 Marina property in the leaks was mentioned in the JIT report of the ‘fake accounts’ case that pertained to 29 ‘suspicious’ accounts through which Rs35 billion was alleged to have been laundered. The report stated that Mr Zardari in a revised wealth statement to the FBR in January 2018 declared he had received it as a gift in the tax year 2014 and that he had gifted the same property onwards in tax year 2016. The report also claims a Karachi businessman, Abdul Ghani Majid, declared granting a gift of almost exactly the same amount in his wealth statement for tax year 2014. It alleges that he was a close associate of Mr Zardari. In the data, Mr Majid is listed as owner of a five-bedroom villa at Emirates Hills, purchased in 2014.

It should be noted that in a 17-page response to the JIT report, Mr Zardari denied any wrongdoing. “The statements recorded by witnesses and the [accompanying] documents were not provided to us,” the reply stated. “The JIT is being used as a means of political victimisation.”

The OCCRP contacted President Zardari and his children with requests for comment. In a response through her lawyers, Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari said that all assets owned by her in Dubai have been “duly declared to the relevant authorities in Pakistan, including the ECP”.

In their response to Dawn’s questions, Mr Ghani’s lawyers said that their client had declared his property at Emirates Hills to the FBR.“ With reference to the allegations in the JIT report, they denied that Mr Ghani had ever owned the 23 Marina property and that “the question of gifting it, therefore, is incorrect and fallacious […]. [T]hat report has till date remained a fiction of JIT’s imagination, including and not limited to the allegations relating to this property”.

Surprisingly, there are some Pakistani families (both political and from the business world) who are widely known to have a base and family homes in Dubai, but are conspicuous by their absence in the property leaks. This underscores that the data, though robust, is neither a historic account of property ownership nor is it a complete picture of all properties bought by Pakistanis there. Many owners remain undetected.

More PEPs connected with the so-called ‘fake accounts case’ as laid out by the JIT show up as listed owners in the Dubai leaks. Among them are Ghulam Abbas Zardari and Hamid Samoo. Two properties are linked with his name in the Dubai leaks: a five-bedroom villa in Al-Furjan and a three-bedroom apartment in Palm Jumeirah. Both these properties also find a mention in the JIT report. Purchase and rental data obtained by E24 and OCCRP show that the villa was purchased in 2014 for $1.36 million and will have generated a rental income of $329,500 from 2015 till the current contract ends later this year. Dawn has verified that Mr Abbas still owns the Al-Furjan villa, while the apartment was sold some months ago.

Mr Samoo, meanwhile, is listed as owner of an apartment in the pricey Hadaeq Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid area in late 2019/ early 2020 which was bought for $1.89m and sold later that year. At present, he owns a two-bedroom apartment in Global Golf Residence 2. It is further alleged in the JIT report that he is employed as a driver and “has no other means of subsistence”. Neither Mr Abbas nor Mr Samoo responded to a request for comment.

Though the JIT allegations are yet to result in a conviction, the name of Haji Haroon, director at H&H Exchange Pvt Ltd and former president Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan, has cropped up as a vital cog in the wheel in some of the biggest dirty money investigations in the country. And there’s a long history. In September 2004, the State Bank suspended the licence of his exchange company for having allegedly attempted to export undeclared currency worth $1.72m from the country.

Appearing as listed owner of at least 250 properties in late 2019 and early 2020, Haji Haroon comes in the top five on the list of Pakistanis owning the most real estate in Dubai in that period; he purchased at least two villas in the emirate by early 2022. Among his investments was Silicon Heights, a nine-storey residential building completed in 2011. Each unit in this building sells for between $114,349 and $313,099. His other principal investment in Dubai in late 2019/ early 2020 was the 42-unit Building 13 in the Dunes Village apartment complex, where one unit is sold for an average price of $122,517. It is not confirmed what properties he owns at present.

Haji Haroon has figured in the Axact saga, which involved the selling of fake degrees and certifications across the world, although the allegations against him went nowhere. He does not appear on any global sanctions list. In July 2015, he was detained on charges of abetting political and business personalities in laundering their money to send abroad. Haji Haroon mysteriously disappeared that same year, reportedly at the hands of intelligence personnel, and resurfaced some 11 months later. No FIR was lodged over the disappearance. In 2018, investigations into the fake accounts case dredged up Haji Haroon’s name again. The FIA in its report alleged that he had used a UAE-based company for the transfer of funds. That case has still not come to a close. By all accounts, he continues to do a roaring business. Haji Haroon did not respond to a request for comments.

In the history of money laundering, however, the massive hawala operation run by the Pakistan-based currency traders Khanani and Kalia International is considered the biggest of its kind: one news report described it as “the underworld’s equivalent of Goldman Sachs”. Moving illicit funds for organised crime groups including drug cartels and violent terrorist organisations raked in an estimated turnover of between $14 billion to $16bn annually. Altaf Khanani, the international face of the organisation, was ultimately convicted and spent nearly six years in a US prison; he was blacklisted by the US on money laundering charges along with his son Obaid Khanani and nephew Hozaifa Khanani. In Dubai, a country where, reportedly, investing in real estate with bags of cash raises few questions, the Khananis are listed owners of a massive real estate portfolio. Mr Obaid himself is linked to around 30 properties, while the family as a whole were listed owners of 85 properties in early 2020, including around a dozen villas. The exact number of properties still owned by Mr Khanani today is not known, but Dawn’s preliminary investigation shows that Khanani family members Mr Obaid, Anis Khanani and Abdul Qadir Khanani own at least seven.

Atif Abdul Aziz Polani was also deeply embroiled in the same money laundering operation. In fact, he was placed on the US sanctions list along with the Khanani men for having acted as an “agent” “acting for or on behalf of the Altaf Khanani organisation”. He is listed as the owner of eight Dubai properties, including four villas.

Industrialist and PPP MNA Mirza Ikhtiar Baig is listed as owning around two dozen properties, many of them jointly with his brother Ishtiaq Baig and spouse. Dawn verified that at least 15 of these properties, ranging from one- to three-bedroom apartments, are still listed as being owned by Mr Baig by early this year, according to the DLD. The purchase value for the still-owned properties ranges between $137,915 and $329,430. The two siblings are chairman and vice chairman of the Baig Group which bills itself as a multinational conglomerate with diversified interests in IT, textiles, power generation and real estate. In response to questions, Mr Baig said, “My company and properties… are declared in my tax returns and tax paid on the rental income.”

Million-dollar villa

The wife of Interior Minister and former caretaker chief minister Mohsin Raza Naqvi, is also listed as owner of a high-value property in the leaks. Data shows that, till the spring of 2022, Ms Ashraf owned a five-bedroom villa in the Arabian Ranches Palma community. According to the transaction data, the villa in the luxury estate was bought in 2017 for $1.18m and sold in 2023 for $1.23m. The DLD system still shows Ms Ashraf as an owner; however, it is not clear what properties she owns in the emirate, if any. In a statement, she acknowledged that she did indeed own the villa which she said was acquired through savings. Ms Ashraf added that it was sold in 2023 for the price mentioned above, and was declared in her tax returns. Interestingly, she confirmed that she still owns property in Dubai, and that the property was purchased in January 2024. In a response to questions sent by Dawn, Ms Ashraf said that the newly acquired property would be declared in the current tax year, as well as to the ECP.

Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon, one of the richest members of the provincial assembly with properties within and outside the country, and his wife appear in the leaks with five properties, with two belonging to him and three to his spouse. Ms Memon is still the owner of an office space in Burlington Tower (along with another individual) which she bought in 2018, as well as a four-bedroom villa in The Meadows bought in 2012 for $1.17m and worth between $2.5m and $3.5m today, but the third property, an apartment at Address Fountain Views in downtown Dubai, has since been sold. Mr Memon currently owns a three-bedroom apartment bought in 2015 that had generated a rental income of nearly a quarter million dollars ($245,036) until 2023. He also owns a one-bedroom apartment that was bought in 2014 and which has brought in rental income of at least $116,823. Mr Memon’s statement of assets for financial year 2020 declared his and his wife’s ownership of these properties.

In his response to questions sent by Dawn, Mr Memon, said: “All our assets locally and internationally plus any incomes derived from such are duly declared as per the legal and regulatory frameworks applicable in Pakistan. …All properties listed and any income derived from these properties have been fully declared to the FBR. Taxes have been duly paid in accordance with the laws applicable to foreign income and asset ownership.”

Owais Muzaffar, better known as Tappi, and his spouse Ms Asif figure in the leaks as listed owners of two properties — one of which is among the most expensive owned by Pakistani nationals. Dawn has verified that Ms Asif currently owns a two-bedroom apartment in Vida Residences at Dubai Hills estate. Bought in 2015, its rental income from 2019 till 2024 amounts to $174,792. The couple also had joint ownership of a five-bedroom villa in the upscale Mohammed Bin Rashid District One neighbourhood until recently, but they appear to have sold it a few months ago. According to the transaction data, it was purchased for $3.17m in 2015 and sold for $5.58m in early 2024.

Hussain Nawaz, son of former premier and PML-N president Nawaz Sharif appears as a listed owner in the leaks. In response to questions sent by Dawn, Mr Nawaz confirmed that he owns “a very small one bedroom property in Dubai…[which] was bought as a personal investment in 2002/3 during exile days…. [for] AED 299,999.” He added that as an overseas Pakistani, he is exempt from filing tax returns.

PML-N MNA Ehsanul Haq Bajwa is unabashed about his wealth, and his X (formerly Twitter) bio reads: ‘By grace of Almighty richest parliamentarian of Pakistan, former MPA and current MNA from Bahwalnagar’. The statements of assets and liabilities filed by lawmakers with the ECP show him to be indeed the wealthiest parliamentarian with over Rs5.46 billion in assets, including Rs4.58 billion worth of assets abroad. He appears in the Dubai leaks data as a listed owner of dozens of properties in the 2020-2022 period. Dawn can confirm that as of early 2024, he still owns a villa in Nad al Sheba First which was purchased in Aug 2016 for $1.08m; a one-bedroom apartment in Emirates Gardens bought in April 2011 for $184,749; and two more one-bedroom apartments in Emirates Gardens bought the very next day for about $184,000 each. According to his statement of assets for the year 2020, Mr Bajwa declared nine properties in Dubai, purchased for a sum equal to Rs36.15bn. His business capital in Dubai amounts to Rs4.9bn and the total worth of his assets comes to over Rs4 billion, excluding liabilities in the UAE. Mr Bajwa did not respond to a request for comments.

In a stark reflection of the vast chasm between the haves and the have-nots in Pakistan’s poorest province, former chief minister of Balochistan Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, his wife and daughter Izbal Zehri have invested a significant amount in Dubai’s luxury real estate sector. Sardar Zehri, who occupies a preeminent position in Balochistan’s tribal hierarchy, was elected MPA from his native Khuzdar district in the 2024 election while Ms Zehri was elected to the National Assembly on a reserved seat.

The leaked data shows that his wife owned a double-storey, six-bedroom villa in the exclusive Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City — District One. Each residence here is said to overlook Crystal Lagoon, the largest such manmade feature in the world. The villa was purchased in 2018 for $4m and sold in 2023 for $6.2m; the rental income generated from it between 2019 to 2022 was a little over half a million dollars. Mr Sanaullah’s wife presently owns a three-bedroom apartment in the residential skyscraper 23 Marina, bought in 2020 for $383,882. The sardar and his daughter are owners of a couple of two-bedroom apartments in The Lofts Central project in the Burj Khalifa area. One was purchased in 2014 and the other during the following year. All told, the Zehris put down $1.5m for these two properties. Mr Sanaullah did not respond to a request for comments.

Another sardar from the same district, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, head of his own faction of the BNP, owns a one-bedroom apartment that he bought in 2009. The property has been rented out since at least 2013, and would be worth around $364,831 today. In his statement of assets for 2020, he declared it was gifted to him by an undisclosed individual.

In the property data leak, former PTI leader, Senator Faisal Vawda (spelt in the data as Fesal) appears linked with two properties. But as of January 2024, he owned a studio apartment bought in 2013 in Escan Marina Tower, Dubai Marina. Another property for which he is a listed owner, a unit in Atlantic Tower 1 bought in 2014, is owned by his daughter in the DLD system. In the leaked data, Ms Vawda is a listed owner of a second property for the 2020-2022 period but the property is not currently owned by her. Mr Vawda has declared his ownership of an apartment in Dubai’s Atlantic Tower, two units in a resort in Malaysia and multiple properties in the UK, including 19-20 Hyde Park Place, 292 Elgin Avenue and 177 Quadrangle Tower near Edgware Road. The value of these assets on the handwritten statement are mostly illegible. In response to questions, Mr Vawda said he and his family own several properties outside Pakistan, but that he does not know “which specific property” is in question. He added that his properties and income are declared with the tax authorities and that they are declared with his nomination papers.

Former prime minister and one-time finance minister Shaukat Aziz and his wife are listed owners of two properties in the leaks. DLD data shows that, as of September 2023, they still own one of these properties, a three-bedroom apartment in downtown Dubai’s Burj Vista Tower. Bought off-plan in 2013 for $1.33m, the property is worth around $2m today. Rental data obtained by E24 and OCCRP from 2019 till 2024 shows an income of nearly a quarter million dollars. The other property for which they are listed owners is located in luxury neighbourhood Lakes Hattan II. It was purchased in 2010 for $2.2m. It is not clear if the couple still owns it. Mr Aziz did not respond to a request for comments.

The family of property tycoon Malik Riaz, owner of Bahria Town Ltd, is well represented in the Dubai leaks. His wife Bina Riaz was listed as owner of dozens of one- and two-bedroom apartments in the HDS Sunstar building in the Al Warsan area in late 2019/early 2020. These have since been sold. Ms Riaz is also a director in Bahria Town, which was found by the Supreme Court in 2018 to have illegally acquired thousands of acres of land in Karachi. The court ordered NAB to investigate and initiate legal proceedings against those involved in the mega scam. In its findings, NAB accused 34 people, Ms Riaz, her son Ahmed Ali Riaz and son-in-law Zain Malik among them, as being culpable. However, the bench set up to implement the 2018 apex court verdict ordered that no reference be filed against the suspects “for the time being”. It also ordered Bahria to pay Rs460bn — nearly $3bn at the time — in instalments as land dues for 16,896 acres on which to develop its Karachi project. In November 2023, the SC found Bahria to be in default of its payment schedule.

Ahmed Ali Riaz and Zain Malik both appear as listed owners of Dubai real estate from the 2020 period. Mr Ali Riaz owns at least seven properties currently, mainly shops and office spaces. His two minor daughters own two properties in Jumeirah Park at present and his sister Pashmina Malik one, a residential unit in Dubai Sports City that appears to have been purchased in 2015. Neither Mr Ali Riaz nor Ms Bina Riaz responded to a request for comments.

Son of retired Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Saad Siddique Bajwa’s name appears in the leaks connected to a property in Dubai. In a detailed response shared with a media partner in the collaboration, Ali Iqbal Bajwa confirmed he is the owner of an apartment in Building 5, City Walk, Dubai and that the apartment is currently mortgaged.

“The apartment was initially purchased, via a mortgage with Mashreq Bank Dubai, by my brother Saad Siddique Bajwa in February 2020. In December 2020, this apartment was transferred to me and since then I have been occupying it.”

He added that the property was declared in his brother’s tax returns with FBR in 2019-20, and since the property was transferred to his name in the second half of 2020, he has been declaring it in his tax returns with FBR from 2020-21 onwards.

Other prominent individuals whose names appear in the leaks include former Balochistan chief minister Sardar Aslam Raisani, MNA Amer Ali Magsi, MPA Sheikh M Mugheri, Farhat Shahzadi aka Farah Gogi, former MPA Sardar Khan Chandio, former minister Marvi Memon, Lt Gen (retd) Muhammad Afzal Muzaffar (NLC scandal), IG police AJK Tajik Sohail Aziz and media house owner Salman Iqbal.

Additional reporting by Iftikhar A. Khan.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2024
swamidada
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Joined: Sun Aug 02, 2020 8:59 pm

Re: Pakistan's Multi Billion dollar properties in Dubai

Post by swamidada »

The emirate’s dark underbelly
Individuals accused of heinous crimes in Pakistan have stashed ill-gotten gains in Dubai, including family members of Rao Anwar.
Naziha Syed Ali | Atika Rehman Published May 16, 2024 Updated about 12 hours ago

ONE of Pakistan’s most notorious cops, Rao Anwar, reputed to be an ‘encounter specialist’ whom the US and UK placed on their sanctions lists for having committed serious human rights abuses, made 74 trips to Dubai within a span of some six years.

As senior superintendent of police, his salary was a modest Rs95,000 per month. And yet the Dubai property leaks, that came to the fore on May 14 in a global investigation led by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and the Norwegian financial outlet E24, show his family members as listed owners. The leaked data provides a detailed overview of hundreds of thousands of properties in Dubai and information about their ownership or usage, largely from 2020 and 2022. It was obtained by the Center for Advanced Defence Studies (C4ADS), a non-profit organisation based in Washington, D.C., that researches international crime and conflict.

Rao’s wife’s name shows in the data linked to five properties. Two of these properties are listed as jointly owned with the couple’s son. Dawn can confirm that Ms Ahmed still owns a two-bedroom apar­tment in Executive-Resid­e­nces-2 in Dubai Hills Est­a­­­te, which was bought in late 2021 for nearly half a million dollars and put on rent for one year for $44,923 (calculated at the current exchange rate of 3.6 dirham to a dollar). She also currently owns an offi­­ce space in Exchange Tow­er, Bu­­si­­ness Bay, that was purchased for $213,452 in 2018 and has been ren­t­­ed out. As a Dubai resident, Ms Ahmed is not liable to pay taxes on it.

Six million-dollar villa

Two other properties for which Rao Anwar’s spouse appears as listed owner in the leaks, have since been sold. They include an apartment, valued at $1.48m in 2021 and a three-bedroom villa valued at $408,000 in 2022.

Aside from these, Ms Ahmed is also linked to a six-bedroom villa in the upscale Hadaeq Sheikh Mohammed Rashid. Tra­ns­action data for this property, which seems to be under construction, shows a single purchase made on May 30, 2023, a “delayed sell” which indicates it is, or was, being paid for in installments. According to the transaction data, the market value of the villa is a whopping $6.67m.

Back in Pakistan, it was well known that Rao’s job in law enforcement was only a side gig for him. There was a fortune to be made from running a protection racket, land-grabbing, illegal sand and gravel (reti bajri) lifting for the construction business, smuggling of Iranian petrol, vice dens, narcotics and illegal water hydrants. And, allegedly, murder.

Killing fields of Karachi

According to the police’s own records, Rao had been involved in 745 ‘encounters’ between 2011 and 2018 that had killed at least 444 people. However, Rao’s willingness to do the bidding of powerful quarters enabled him to continue wreaking mayhem with utter impunity in Karachi’s Malir district, where he was posted SSP.

It was the killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud in 2018 and the public furore it unleashed, that finally brought Rao’s reign of terror to a halt. However, trial court proceedings against him dragged on for five years; he was acquitted last year and the matter is now in appeal. Naqeeb­ullah’s father died in 2019, still waiting for justice for his son. Rao, meanwhile, can live out his retirement years in all the luxury that his real estate investments in Dubai, through his wife, afford him.

Dr Mukhtar Hamid Shah, who earned infamy as an organ trafficker and was on a US sanctions list for that reason, is listed owner of nine properties in Dubai, worth millions of dollars, in the leaked data. They were sold between July and October 2019, presumably by his heirs, following his death the same year.

Among Dr Mukhtar’s listed properties was a four-bedroom villa in Wadi Al Safa, an area where according to a property website, many houses have private pools and large gardens. Bought in August 2007, the available data shows that this villa generated a rental income of $91,208 from 2016 to 2018. He also owned two three-bedroom villas in Mira, a sub-community within Reem, a master project by Emaar. Both were bought within a month of each other in late 2014 for a total of $899,500. In some cases, the rental data goes back only a few years. It shows that each of the villas mentioned above generated a rental income of $38,117 between 2017 and 2018. Dr Mukhtar also owned six one-bedroom apartments in pricey residential projects, such as Old Town which lies in the shadow of the iconic Burj Khalifa.

Even the extre­mely limited rental data available for the years that Dr Mukhtar appears as listed owner shows that the total income generated by all the above properties was no less than $512,591. In other words: Rs142,606,319.

During the years that Dr Mukhtar, a retired colonel, was acquiring his portfolio of expensive real estate in Dubai, he was allegedly running an illegal organ trafficking operation from his Rawalpindi hospital, the Kidney Centre. ‘Agents’ affiliated with his hospital (and others too) would scour poverty-stricken rural areas in central Punjab and locate desperate individuals, often bonded labourers, willing to sell a kidney for Rs250,000 ($900). After the operation, they would be sent home with a handful of painkillers and no medical advice on post-operative precautions.

Boom in vended organs

Although Pakistan was once known as an ‘organ bazaar’, commercial transplants were criminalised through an ordinance in 2007 followed by legislation against the practice in 2010. By 2014, however, weak implementation of the law had led to a boom in vended organs, with the Kidney Centre the most brazen offender. ‘Trans­plant tourism’, a term used to describe people visiting Pakistan to undergo transplantation with organs pu­­rchased on the black market, became wildly lucrative with each such operation costing the patient around $100,000 at the time. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Dr Mukhtar made his biggest one-time investment in Dubai real estate — the two villas in Mira and an apartment — around this period.

The Kidney Centre was the target of several police raids. Dr Mu­­khtar along with his son Dr Tau­se­ef was arrested following the shocking discovery in October 2016 of 24 individuals being held against their will in an apartment for the purpose of harvesting their organs. After his plea for pre-arr­est bail was rejected, Dr Mukhtar was sent behind bars in early February 2017, only to be granted bail a few weeks later. Dr Tauseef was again arrested along with his brother Dr Zahid Mukhtar last year for allegedly carrying out illegal transplants, but the case against him was later dropped.

Dr Tauseef is currently the owner of a one-bedroom apartment in Al Thanyah Fifth. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2024

https://www.dawn.com/news/1833781
swamidada
Posts: 1496
Joined: Sun Aug 02, 2020 8:59 pm

Re: Pakistan's Multi Billion dollar properties in Dubai

Post by swamidada »

Offshore properties, taxes and laws: 5 questions you may have following the Dubai leaks
Lawyer explains what makes purchasing property abroad illegal and what is the legal way to go about it.

Dawn.com Published May 20, 2024 Updated about 18 hours ago,

one of the seven emirates comprising the United Arab Emirates, has become a popular destination for tourists and investment over the last few decades. Over time, the emirate has carefully crafted an image of opulence and luxury, while marketing itself as a “world-class business hub”.

So, it wasn’t surprising that Dubai was trending on social media over the past few days. This time, however, it was not for the glitz and bling.

On May 14, an extraordinary volume of leaked property data from Dubai, including over 23,000 properties listed as belonging to Pakistani nationals, was made public. These include political figures, former military men, bankers and bureaucrats.

The leaked data, titled ‘Dubai Unlocked’, provided a detailed overview of hundreds of thousands of properties in the emirate and information about their ownership or usage, largely from 2020 and 2022. It was obtained by the Center for Advanced Defence Studies (C4ADS), a non-profit organisation based in Washington, DC, that researches international crime and conflict.

It was then shared with a Norwegian financial outlet E24 and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which coordinated an investigative project with media outlets from around the world, including Dawn.

The properties owned by Pakistanis range from studio apartments and commercial properties to entire buildings and six-bedroom villas in some of Dubai’s most expensive districts, including Dubai Marina, Emirates Hills, Business Bay, Palm Jumeirah and Al Barsha.

While the leaked data is not evidence in itself of financial crime or tax fraud, it does paint a contradicting picture. The fact that Pakistan, a country running from pillar to post, desperately seeking help from global lenders and other countries, features prominently in the data.

But as these discussions continue, one can’t help but ask questions. Dawn.com asked lawyer Ali Javed Darugar, a tax expert, to explain what the data meant and its legal implications. Here’s what he had to say:

If possessing property abroad is legal — which it is — in what circumstances does it become illegal?
Possessing property abroad is legal. Any illegality associated with owning property abroad may stem from three issues:

(i) If the money to purchase an asset abroad was sent through a not-so-legal channel — through hawala, hundi or any other illegal source.

(ii) If the money was sent abroad legally, but the person failed to declare the asset/property to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), and in essence, failed to pay applicable taxes on it.

(iii) Whether the money used for the property is not the proceeds of corruption. So if someone is found guilty of graft, that means the property purchased abroad during the period of said graft becomes illegal.

What is the procedure to follow, as per Pakistani law, if one wants to purchase property abroad?
The money that is sent abroad for the purchase of the property should be done so in compliance with Pakistan’s capital control laws.

These laws prohibit sending money to a person residing in another country without special or general permission exemptions, which allow the remittance of funds abroad. Banks too are barred from remitting any money, that is not generally or specifically approved by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), abroad.

Taking huge amounts of money abroad without the permission of the central bank is strictly prohibited.

Therefore, it is quite possible that any money remitted abroad for the purchase of properties by any citizen of Pakistan was made through illegal means.

Moreover, property purchased by a Pakistani abroad should be declared in their tax returns and the applicable taxes must be paid.

It is also obligatory to pay any applicable tax linked to the assets abroad. The calculation of the relevant tax is broadly based on the provision of any double tax treaty that has been executed between the country where such asset is located and Pakistan, and the difference in the applicable tax rate between such country and Pakistan.

Following the Dubai Leaks, what actions should the FBR take?
The FBR should examine the wealth statements of Pakistani citizens/residents who have properties abroad as per Dubai Leaks and verify whether such properties have been declared and whether any applicable tax has been paid.

The statement can also be used to verify whether the owners had any disclosed wealth that could account for the purchase of the asset at the price divulged in the Dubai Leaks. If the price of the asset and its purchase cannot be reconciled with the tax return of the owner, then the FBR has the power to amend the owner’s tax return and impose taxes with respect to any undisclosed income (which was used to buy the property) along with default surcharge and penalty.

How can it be determined whether those named in the leaks are guilty of corruption?
This would be an uphill task keeping in view the requirements of due process. Their tax returns — specifically the wealth statements — should be examined to see if

(i) such properties have been declared, or

(ii) if their income/existing assets show that they can purchase property abroad at the price they did.

If not, this would raise the question of where they got the money to purchase such assets.

The regime prescribed under the National Accountability Bureau generally puts the onus of proving a legal money trail on the accused. However, there has been legitimate criticism of the NAB law that it puts the onus of proving innocence on the accused in contravention of the well-established principle of justice that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

It also needs to be kept in mind that a lot of Pakistanis do not declare their complete assets in their tax returns as a tax evasion mechanism. Tax evasion is illegal but does not in itself prove that the money was obtained through corruption.

Therefore, instead of just focusing on proving corruption, it may be a more expedient strategy to see if the names that have come forth in the leaks comply with Pakistan’s tax laws and capital control laws. Proven contravention of tax laws and capital control laws can also result in imprisonment.

What would these leaks mean for investment in Dubai?
Investment may be negatively affected for such investors who use Dubai as a ‘safe haven’ for money/assets that they have not declared in their home jurisdictions.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1834044/offsh ... ubai-leaks
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