ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar Monday said the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) has so far traced out unlawful assets worth $5.3 billion (around 700 billion Pakistani rupees) in 10 countries, adding that over 5,000 fake accounts were used to illegally transfer the money abroad. “The figure has been traced out after investigating overseas properties worth excess of $1 million held by the Pakistani nationals,” Akbar told a press conference here along with Senator Faisal Javed and Adviser to Prime Minister on Media Iftikhar Durrani organised to share the progress made by the Assets Recovery Unit – a joint team of officials from the State Bank of Pakistan, the Federal Board of Revenue and watchdogs formed to bring back illegal money stashed abroad. “This is just a small percentage of the total money laundered over the years,” he said, adding that the assets below the value of $1 million will be checked in the next phase.He said out of this $5.3 billion, an amount of $1.3 billion was directly transferred to other countries through money laundering. He said the ARU has traced out around 5,000 fake accounts so far in which some identified people were sending huge amount of money. Akbar said Pakistan is the third largest country which possesses three per cent real estate in Dubai and London. The properties worth Rs $15 billion traced in Dubai only are a big tool of money laundering. He said the misuse of iqama has become a source of money laundering in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), adding that the ARU is facing hurdles due to iqama as well as the assets which are on the names of drivers, gardeners, cooks, etc.He said there are two types of iqamas: one the workers from Pakistan possess when they move abroad to earn money and send a big chunk of that money to Pakistan in form of remittances, and the other type of Iqama is used by the politicians and big names for the purpose of money laundering. “We are seeking details of all iqama holders from Dubai administration. Those who have stashed money in Dubai and European banks will not be able to hide,” he warned. To a question about bringing the traced looted amount of Rs 700 billion back to the country, Akbar said the difficult task was to trace out the money which is being accomplished successfully. He said this money will be brought back to Pakistan through fulfilling all legal requirements in respective countries while the process of freezing accounts has already been started. To another question, he said so far the government has not filed even a single case against anyone in this regard.To another question about progress on traced illegal assets worth Rs 700 billion, Akbar said, “We have served the notices and investigation is in process with involvement of all the relevant departments of Federal Investigation Department (FIA), National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).” Responding to a question, he explained that these illegal assets belong to 10 jurisdictions and that Switzerland is not included in those. All the countries are showing great cooperation and willingness in sharing the required assets details which reflect their trust on the honest leadership in Pakistan, Akbar said. “Money laundering has left a devastating impact on our national economy. Unfortunately, the size of our whole economy is equal to the black economy which exists parallel and if the plundered money is added to our economy, it will regain strength,” he added.Speaking on the occasion, Senator Faisal Javed said crackdown against those having illegal assets will be a great game-changer for the country which will also help restore masses’ confidence in the government. He said no government in the history of country was honest enough to grab the corrupt involved in money laundering. Speaking on the occasion, Iftikhar Durrani reiterated the government’s stance of continuing the accountability process across the board despite all hue and cries.Published in Daily Times, November 13th 2018.