FIA tells NA panel it wants NAB-like powers

Amendments are needed in the anti-money laundering laws, says FIA

News Desk April 09, 2019
Amendments are needed in the anti-money laundering laws, says FIA. PHOTO: FILE

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Tuesday asked a parliamentary panel to pave way for legislation to give the investigation agency powers equivalent to the prime anti-graft body, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior on the FIA’s performance, the FIA Additional Director General Basharat Mehmood pointed out that NAB has the authority to take record from any institute.

“But if the FIA wants to avail bank record then it needs to take permission from a sessions judge which takes many months and it is possible that the judge may not give the permission. As record is not available immediately, investigation often remains pending,” Mehmood said.

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The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker Marriyum Aurangzeb said if the FIA focuses on its ability and talent then there will be no need for NAB. She asked them to keep in mind the standards achieved by investigation agencies of other countries.

Explaining the concept of Benami and fake accounts, the FIA officials said a fake account is the account which continues to function despite death of the accountholder.

The other is the Benami account in which transactions of the accountholder do not match with his income. In the Benami account, the accountholder is neither the beneficiary nor does he operate it.

They said there are tea vendors and Faloda vendors who never went to a bank but still had bank accounts in their names. They said collusion of bank manager was necessary for opening such accounts. In the past few years, around 500 such cases were reported by the banks to the concerned authority.

Members of the committee said if the banks are involved in the Benami accounts then why no action is taken against the banks. The FIA officials said in each and every inquiry, there are a minimum of one or two bank suspects.

They said there is a role of at least two bankers in such transactions. “We have found even presidents of banks to be involved in such transactions. When the bank president is with you then you may do whatever you want to,” said one of the officials.

In the briefing on difficulties faced by the FIA, it was revealed that the investigations are heavily affected due to court's order and increase of workload.

The FIA officials said cybercrime has witnessed phenomenal rise in the current times and many complaints are being received about misconduct on social media. Our staff is also not trained enough to deal with virtual currency. Continuous transfer of officers impacts investigation, they said.

Marriyum Aurangzeb expressing lack of satisfaction over performance of the FIA said the briefing is not sufficient to gauge performance of the FIA in the past 5 years.

Later, the committee summoned an investigation report from the FIA on housing societies. The committee chairman Raja Khurram Nawaz said the public had spent their savings on such societies.

He asked the FIA to inform the committee about the number of societies against which investigations are under way and the number of people so far arrested.