Explainer: Why supermodel Ayyan was arrested

Published: March 14, 2015


KARACHI: The arrest of supermodel Ayyan Ali on Saturday, for apparently trying to smuggle half a million US dollars, was a classic case of the rich and influential avoid paying taxes, experts said.

“If what they say is true, then this lady was trying to take out roughly Rs50 million. That’s no small sum of money,” said Malik Bostan, president of Forex Association.

As per the State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) foreign exchange regulation, a passenger cannot carry more than $10,000, or the equivalent notes of another currency, out of the country.

Read: Supermodel Ayyan sent to Adiala jail for ‘smuggling’ $500,000

“There is a global ban on travelling with anything over $10,000. It’s primarily done to curb money laundering. But people who don’t want to disclose the source of their income really don’t care,” Bostan said.

Up until 1991, Pakistanis were not allowed to maintain foreign currency accounts, and the movement of foreign exchange was prohibited.

However, during the economic liberalisation programme of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s first government in 1992, those Pakistanis who wanted to park their funds abroad had a field day.

Businessmen, politicians and smugglers ‘invested’ billions in real estate and other assets in Middle East markets.

The outflow went on until Pakistan tested its nuclear devices in 1998, and subsequent international restrictions led to a freeze on withdrawals of foreign currency.

Bostan says individuals who want to carry an amount above $10,000 have to seek permission from the central bank.

“Obviously the bank asks you to fill in a form and disclose the source of income.”

Read: 8 things you need to know about supermodel Ayyan

Ayyan has been travelling frequently between Europe and the UAE for the past year, where she has been pursuing a career in modeling and music. She has not featured in the domestic fashion showcase since last April.

Sabeen Hasan, who heads the financial crimes division of a multinational bank, said she would be amazed if a person like Ayyan was unaware of foreign exchange regulations.

“Being a frequent traveller myself, I know this is something you just have to know after a couple of trips,” she said.

Offshore transactions require account holders to not just go through the bank’s compliance scrutiny, but they also have to pay a fee and associated tax.

“In most cases, it’s mostly about tax evasion, which is ultimately a form of money laundering.”

Pakistani airports are frequently used by traders who smuggle foreign currency to duty-free places like Dubai to bring back electronic goods.

Former SBP Governor Anwar Yasin stirred a controversy in 2013, when he told a parliamentary committee that $25 million was being siphoned out of the country every day in ‘briefcases through the airports.’

Read: The allure of Ayyan

The departure of foreign exchange was also blamed for a depreciation of the rupee, which in turn adds to inflation and causes the economy to stagnate.

Bostan said there was no credible tool or system to estimate the amount of foreign currency being smuggled, because no one really knows how many dollars are circulating in the economy or locked up in vaults.

“While we have to declare how much currency we are taking out of the country, there is no such restriction on how much can be brought in. That depends on monitoring and regulations of a country you are coming from.”

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Reader Comments (23)

  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Mar 15, 2015 - 12:17AM

    Even US$ 10,000 is a considerable amount for any passenger to take out from Pakistan why the model girl Ayyan was carrying US$ 5,00,000 with her to take it to Dubai.

    The question arises: who gave her the money or does it belong to her?

    Money laundering is a heinous crime all over the world.

    Had any one asked Ayyan as what was the purpose for her to take out such a huge amount.

    ET please follow up the story and let it readers know about more details, as what makes Ayyan to carry a huge amount with her to Dubai? Recommend

  • Choochi
    Mar 15, 2015 - 1:07AM

    Pity on alleged icon of glamour snubbed ruthlessly. You didnt see her eyes, lips.Recommend

  • Sarah
    Mar 15, 2015 - 3:09AM

    Shame on such woman.Haven’t you seen her vulgar songs? Nowadays this type of Western minded pornstars are destroying our social values.Strict action should be taken against them who try to impose vulgarity and nudity in Pakistan in the name of liberty.Recommend

  • Insaaf
    Mar 15, 2015 - 7:43AM

    Maybe she didn’t offer a significant bribe? Being a frequent air traveler myself, I know how “honest” the custom officials areRecommend

  • istaburg
    Mar 15, 2015 - 11:34AM

    There is no global ban on carrying more than $10k, please get the facts straight. You can carry the money but you have to declare it, carrying it undeclared is illegal.

    There could be specific laws in place for Pakistan which limit the amount you can carry, but there is no Global ban.

    ET, it is always good to have the writer check the facts. Recommend

  • NK
    Mar 15, 2015 - 7:34PM

    @istaburg I’m not sure whether the term “global ban” is correct, but in my hundreds of trips to dozens of countries, there is generally regulation of not being able to carry more than $10K on your person. immigration when exiting the country always asks if you have more than $10K because you are not allowed to carry more than than sum. US, Canada, Europe and a lot of asian countries i’ve been to have this regulation. Maybe theres some one of countries that don’t ask? I mean maybe cambodia or nepal doesn’t care how much money you take in or out, but generally those are not of concern to pakistanis.Recommend

  • Istaburg
    Mar 16, 2015 - 5:26AM

    @NK …u r right there are off course country specific regulations on the quantity of cash you can carry in or out which vary and can be 0 to a certain amount.

    As a “general” rule a declaration is always required with a limit depending on country…however there is no “general” blanket limit on carrying more than 10k, which was my point.

    So on your next 100+ trip to another country … Say e.g. to the UK, EU USA or Canada(where no limit exists, but declaration is mandatory over a certain amount) check the regulation and the facts, they are available on the web :-)

    That is what I said to ET as well !!Recommend

  • Malik
    Mar 16, 2015 - 7:04AM

    Dubai is a HAVEN for black money, and a favourite of our corrupt ruling elite, including the corrupt paid civil and uniformed bureaucracy. Why should Ayyan be given preferential treatment in jail?. She must suffer the torment and misery which other criminals endure.Recommend

  • Malik
    Mar 16, 2015 - 7:09AM

    You can only take out more than $10,000 out of USA or its equivalent amount in Europe etc, if you have declared it and paid taxes on this amount, otherwise thus money is confiscated and person carrying it put in prison.Recommend

  • FJ
    Mar 16, 2015 - 10:31AM

    And we thought after Rahart Fateh Ali Khan’s fiasco in India (similar episode at an indian airport with Cash $) all the celebrities would have understood that it is illegal to carrying huge amounts of cash. Fact is that these stars make lots of money but don’t wish to pay any taxes. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Recommend

  • Intelektual
    Mar 16, 2015 - 10:41AM

    Our Stars are no legal experts ! The quality of interviews our Meera jee and cricketers give pass considerable doubt over their literacy and education ! Moreover the $10,000 limit was a news to some of the readers right here as well !
    Rahat Fateh Ali khan had a similar incident in India !
    They are stars they earn alot naturally !
    Why is this being blown out of proportion??Recommend

  • Intelektual
    Mar 16, 2015 - 10:45AM

    @Mohammad Ali Siddiqui: She wanted to make a music video .. Now is that a crime too?
    USD 10,000 in a place like Dubai is loose change btw !
    She is no legal expert nor is she a criminal ! She is a super model celebrity of course everyone knows she is rich ! A single endorsement can pay upto that much yearly!Recommend

  • Intelektual
    Mar 16, 2015 - 10:52AM

    @Sarah: “Haven’t you seen her vulgar songs?” are u condemning her or advertising for her?
    Also if Our social values are only limited to how much clothes women wear on TV then we are already doomed. Their is actual porn available, and has been available for decades, there are indian movies and music albums .. Poor Ayyan has not much to do with it any ways..Recommend

  • Soft-corner
    Mar 16, 2015 - 11:19AM

    It is less likely that she owns such sum of money personally! She may have been doing this on behalf of some else one against some professional benefits.Recommend

    Mar 16, 2015 - 12:38PM

    Thanks for being honest to say that you don’t know the rules; Your comments shows just that. There is no global ban on foreign currency movement, but limits are prescribed. US$10,000 is the max you can carry without declaration at point of departure or arrival. Amount above this MUST be declared with justification on the prescribed form and to be endorsed by customs of country of departure or arrival. Recommend

  • R Malick
    Mar 16, 2015 - 1:53PM

    This is just a misunderstanding by the media. They have twisted the story and the statements of the customs officials. The only discovered “monopoly” bank notes from her which she wanted to gift as a birthday present to the brother of a former minister.
    Further, she is said to have declared that the source of the money is the sale of her property to Mr. Malik’s brother. Interestingly, Mr. Malik’s brother was supposed to travel with her.

    What an interesting arrangement, you sell me property and then we both travel to Dubai with the payment amount.

    Earlier, she had stated that the money was for making a music video – hmmm, interesting, selling property to make a video? really not sound financial sense to me.

    Further, her father has been reported to have stated in the court that the court should also investigate why she sold the money to Mr. Malik’s brother. Definitely something more to it than meets the eye.Recommend

  • Malang Jan
    Mar 16, 2015 - 2:27PM

    @Sarah – what has her singing or modeling got to do with the subject under debate? Would it have been alright to take out USD 500,000 from the country if she were wearing a burqa or abaya, or sporting a long beard? Let’s please be rational and not look at everything through tinted glasses!Recommend

  • Ahmad Rafiq
    Mar 16, 2015 - 6:03PM

    Question : How does one transition from being a ‘model’ to a ‘supermodel’ ? Recommend

  • Sohaib
    Mar 16, 2015 - 7:13PM

    I pity you. What has her modelling to do with the incident? Why do you people consider yourselves so holy and pious that you can dismiss others as “vulgar” in a breath? This is the problem with religious zealots like you, whatever you might do in private and under covers, you cannot see someone express themselves as they want without bringing your piety and holiness in the discussion. If you cannot see something, shut up and don’t watch it. Don’t try to control others who don’t subscribe to your fundamentalist teachings. You are beyond despicable.Recommend

  • IndianDude
    Mar 17, 2015 - 1:45AM

    Money laundering is crime. As if that was not enough, she does not even wear a hijab. Recommend

  • Salman
    Mar 17, 2015 - 9:16PM

    @Mohammad Ali Siddiqui: It was on another news site that this money came from the sale of property to Rehman Malik’s son. Something very fishy is going on here of course. Recommend

  • Assad
    Mar 18, 2015 - 12:28PM

    Crime is a crime no matter who did, for model i think this isn’t a concrn that how did she earn money making valgr nude videos or what so ever the thing is she must be punshd for what she did and if you are against her work then you may file a report against her…. Recommend

  • nasim
    Apr 7, 2015 - 7:09AM

    She did the crime, she should do the time! Recommend

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