NAB summons officials of 5 major cellphone firms
ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau has summoned representatives of five major cellular companies – the National Telecommunication Corporation, Mobilink, Warid, Telenor and Paktel/Zong — to record their statements in the Rs47 billion tax evasion case, it was officially announced on Wednesday.
The NAB investigation team has taken into custody relevant record of the case from the Chief Commissioner Large Tax Unit of the Federal Board of Revenue.
On July 4, 2012, NAB Chairman Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari had taken notice of the Rs47 billion tax evasion and the huge loss to the national exchequer and asked the FBR Chairman to appear in person to explain details of the defaulted amount.
The FBR chief had been directed not to take any further action in terms of tax waiver of Rs47 billion to these companies.
The NAB chairman had directed FBR chairman to act upon the following four-point agenda:
1. No waiver, whatsoever, should be granted to cellular companies on grounds of interconnect charges.
2. The FBR chairman will depute the board’s lawyer to get stay vacated by producing evidence as pointed out by NAB.
3. He will approach NAB where the necessity of recovery arises.
4. He will work closely with NAB in the larger interest of safeguarding the national exchequer.
NAB had also constituted a fact-finding committee comprising DG Operations, Director Special Operations and a senior Baking Officer of NAB to investigate the matter.
A high-level team of FBR comprising Member Inland Revenue, Member Admin and Chief Sales Tax has already appeared before NAB’s inquiry team and apprised it on the issue of tax waiver to these companies.
A senior NAB official said that their explanation was found unsatisfactory and they were restrained from signing the tax waiver notification.
According to a NAB spokesman, cellular companies had been evading tax since 2007 and top officials of the FBR didn’t take notice of the scam at that time and the matter came to the notice of FBR tax auditors in 2010.
When FBR asked these companies to pay the tax, the companies filed a case with the Commissioner Inland Revenue (CIR). The CIR told them to pay the tax, but they filed an appeal in the Appellant Tribunal Inland Revenue (ATIR).
The Tribunal gave a decision in favour of interconnect charges. Then these companies appealed to the Chief Commissioner of Large Tax Unit with a plea that they were ready to pay tax from July 1, 2012, but asked him to waive the tax of the last four years, claiming the tax evasion had happened inadvertently.