FIA widens fictitious accounts inquiry

Agency to brief Senate panel in detail on scam in in-camera session

Riazul Haq October 09, 2018
Senate panel asks FIA to expose the scope of scam and those behind the fake accounts. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) told a Senate panel on Tuesday that it has extended scope of investigation into a case of fictitious bank accounts that were apparently used for laundering billions.

The FIA was briefing the Senate’s Functional Committee on the scandal. The panel expressed grave concern over it and asked the agency to share internal details of people involved in an in-camera session. The panel also showed dissatisfaction over the FIA performance, declaring it lethargic and reactive.

FIA’s Aijaz Jakhrani said officials of a bank created accounts in the name of some citizens without their knowledge but in connivance with those who wanted those accounts.

“Hence the account becomes baynaami (nameless) and after keeping the money in that account for a while the money was laundered outside the country,” he said.

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Upon insistence of chairperson Usman Khan Kakar, Jakhrani said bank managers, senior staff members including top officials of banks were in the FIA custody in connection with its ongoing probe into these fictitious accounts and transfer of millions of rupees.

Jakhrani also said the arrested bankers shared that they received orders from the top to create such accounts and transfer cash.

“It means some big names are involved in it including the bank’s top management,” said Kakar. He asked why the bank was not closed down after the scandal just as food outlets are sealed if they are found selling stale or expired food.

Ministry of Interior Additional Secretary Siddique Sheikh said a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is already looking into the case on the directives of the apex court. Chuckling, the chairperson said he hoped the JIT did not work the way it did in the Panama Papers scandal inquiry.

When the senators started asking about the names of those involved and other details of the accounts, Sheikh told the committee that the matter is of sensitive nature. “For secrecy of the subject and names involved, the details that you want can be shared in an in-camera meeting,” he added.

The committee agreed and directed the FIA to brief them in the next meeting.

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The FIA is probing over 50 bank accounts thought to be opened for money laundering of billions of rupees of black money.

Human smuggling

Sarwat Khan, deputy director of the FIA, shared details about performance of the FIA during the last five years and stated that during 2017 the agency arrested only one human smuggler and six facilitators.

Khan lamented about shortage of check posts at the Pakistan-Iran border, which, she said, is one of the major reasons behind FIA’s failure to have complete check and control over human smuggling.

“Human trafficking is on the rise because of the porous border with Iran. Having a checkpoint at every fifth mile is near to impossible,” the officer said.

Senator Fida Muhammad said alleged FIA officials roam streets of Malakand and other parts in upper Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and harass people.  “People in civvies introduce themselves as FIA inspectors, needlessly question people and ask for bribes especially from those who live in the Gulf countries,” he said.

The Interior Ministry officials said the FIA does not follow any such way of investigation and asked the senator to share names or identity of such alleged officials.



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