ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has called for efforts to curb money laundering, which, according to him, has become a cancer for the country’s economy, causing irreparable damage.
“Elements involved in money laundering deserve no clemency and they will be exposed in front of the public,” Imran Khan said while chairing on Monday a high level meeting held to review the steps taken to combat money laundering.
The meeting was attended by the Finance Minister Asad Umar, PM’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, PM’s Special Assistant on Media Iftikhar Durrani, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Tariq Bajwa and the secretary interior.
Chairmen of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) as well as the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director general and other officials also took part in the moot.
The SBP governor briefed the meeting on steps taken by the state owned and commercial banks against money laundering. The meeting was informed that the central bank imposed a fine of Rs247 million on six different banks due to fake accounts, and investigations are under way against 109 officers.
He said difficulties faced by the Afghan refugees in opening bank accounts are also being sorted out. Work is also under way to allow the refugees open bank accounts on the basis of their Proof of Registration (POR) cards issued by the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA).
Imran Khan was also briefed on issuance of reports of suspicious transactions by the commercial banks and the examination and investigation of such reports.
He was told that abilities of the Financial Monitoring United (FMU) had been considerably increased to examine suspicious transaction reports (STR) so that relevant institutions could be informed immediately about any suspicious transactions.
Some 8,707 suspicious transactions reports were issued in 2018 while there number was 5,548 in 2017. In the past two months of January and February, 1,136 STR were issued.
For finance intelligence sharing with foreign countries, memorandum of understandings (MoUs) were beings signed with the United Kingdom, Qatar, UAE and Australia to promote exchange of information.
Coordination between the FMU and different institutions including the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) was being improved so that immediate action could be taken against suspicious transactions to prevent money laundering.
The SBP officials briefed on the value of the currency seized in relation to money laundering and smuggling. It was revealed that Custom officials seized Rs439 million from July 2018 till January 2019 while the amount during the same time period last year was Rs131 million.
Custom officials informed the PM that the total amount of seized items and currency from July 2018 till January 2019 is Rs20.38 billion. The value of the items seized during this same period last year was Rs12.30 billion, showing 66% increase.
The FBR officials informed the PM that after implementation of the anti-money laundering law, a total of 335 suspicions transactions were released from May 2016 till January 2019 after which more than 500 cases were investigated and Rs6.6 billion were recovered.
From November 2018 till January 2019, FIRs were registered and 13 people were arrested in 11 cases, in which Rs305.06 million worth currency was also seized. As a result of government’s provision of exemptions to promote remittances, an increase of 12.5% has been witnessed in remittances.
The secretary interior gave a detailed briefing on steps taken to prevent money laundering at the borders and different airports. The PM directed authorities to make the FMU more active and stable.