LAHORE – At a time when Prime Minister Imran Khan is showing a strong concern about the huge amounts of money being transferred abroad through money laundering, the Punjab chapter of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) could register only 14 cases of money laundering in the first 100 days of the incumbent government with zero percent conviction rate so far.
Sources in the Interior Ministry say there are no specialist officers like forensic accountants and finance experts in the FIA to detect and prosecute cases registered under the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).
It is worth mentioning here that Pakistan remained on the grey list of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) from 2012 to 2015 due to weak action again money laundering. In 2018, it was once again put on the grey list.
The Paris-based FATF was established in 1989 by G-7 Summit to prevent money laundering and its recommendations are used as international standards. It has a heavy influence over multilateral donour organizations like IMF and World Bank, etc.
On the other hand, the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab registered 126 cases of terror finance under the ATA 1997 from 2015 to 2018. At least 40 people were convicted in these cases and Rs1,822,033 were seized. At least 74 cases of money laundering were registered in 2015, 24 in 2016, five in 2017 and 35 in 2018.
Then action against proscribed organisations and 4th Schedulers under section 11-E, 11-O ATA 197 was taken by CTD in which surety bonds were taken, bank accounts were frozen and arm licences and passports were seized. Action was taken in Lahore, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Faisalabad, Sahiwal, Multan, DG Khan and Bahawalpur. Out of total 1472 4th schedulers, surety bonds were obtained from 1,124. As many as 262 of 358 bank accounts were frozen, 123 arms licensed were
checked and 81 were confiscated and 382 passports were examined and 122 were submitted to police stations.
Out of 49 convicted people in terror finance cases, 25 were awarded five years and above imprisonment, 23 were awarded less than five years imprisonment and one person was fined. At least 48 accused were awarded fine and imprisonment both.
FIA has two kinds of powers under AMLA for money laundering and under Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) for Hawala and Hundi. Though FIA was successful in taking action against Hawala and Hundi cases registered under AMLA. Of 14 cases, not even a single one was concluded.
FATF’s Asian Pacific Group (APG) team visited Pakistan in recent past and pointed out deficiencies in different institutions, including unavailability of updated list of proscribed entities and individuals. It also pointed out that there was no communication and coordination between local or provincial authorities on terrorism and terror finance cases.
Sources in the Interior Ministry said the APG team during its visit to Pakistan was of the view that agencies were ill-prepared, ill-informed or unwilling to share information on money laundering or terror finance. As per APG findings, Pakistan is unlikely to get out of the grey list because of deficiencies in laws, regulations, mechanism and weaknesses of various institutions.