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KARACHI: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has registered two FIRs against the brother of a London-based MQM leader, a banker and several officials of an exchange company for illegally transferring money out of Pakistan through fake bank accounts and Hawala to the UK and the UAE, it emerged on Friday.

They allegedly transferred between Rs50 million and Rs60m generated through land grabbing, particularly China-cutting — the illegal carving out of smaller residential plots, less than 120 square yards, from a big amenity plot — to London, Dubai and Sharjah from 2013 to 2015, according to FIA officials and documents obtained by Dawn.

According to the FIR (44/2015) registered by the FIA commercial banks circle on behalf of the state, Syed Iqbal Rasheed allegedly abused his official position as branch manager of the NIB Bank, Stadium Road, and the UBL Bank Ltd, SMCHS branch to provide ‘illegal benefit’ of banking services to Mohammad Ahsan, alias Chunnu Mamu, pertaining to laundering the proceeds obtained from unlawful business of China-cutting abroad.

The FIR did not mention the affiliation of Mohammad Ahsan, alias Chunnu Mamu, with any political party, but FIA director Shahid Hayat in his recent letter to the Sindh government stated that Mohammed Ahsan alias Chunnu Mama was ‘brother of Muhammad Anwar of MQM, London’.

The FIA claimed that from November 2013 to September 2014, Iqbal Rasheed being NIB Bank branch manager opened at least five bank accounts in the name of Mohammad Ahsan and his family members. These accounts were opened “illegally and fraudulently with fake and forged signatures in collusion with accused Mohammad Ahsan in order to provide illegal services of transfer of proceeds of crimes to the latter from Karachi to London, Sharjah and Dubai,” according to the FIR.

Similarly, the FIA said that while being UBL Bank branch manager from October 2014 to July 2015, Iqbal Rasheed illegally and fraudulently opened four bank accounts with fake and forge signatures in collusion with Mohammad Ahsan alias Chunnu Mamu in order to provide illegal services of transfer of proceeds of crimes to him from Karachi to London, Sharjah and Dubai.

“Since the year 2013, Mohammad Ahsan alias Chunnu Mamu and his family members have not been residing in Pakistan but illegally and fraudulently got opened the above bank accounts in connivance with accused Syed Iqbal Rasheed and received proceeds of crimes in the bank accounts being maintained abroad,” as per the FIR copy.

The FIR mentioned the account numbers of Mohammad Ahsan and his family members maintained in six banks in Edgware London namely Hailfax Bank and Natwest Bank branches and two banks in Sharjah and Dubai, respectively, where the money was transferred through the alleged fake accounts in Karachi.

The FIA believed that Iqbal Rasheed abused his official position as bank manager and provided illegal banking services to accused Chunnu Mamu and others. The banker “dishonestly, fraudulently and illegally laundered proceeds of crimes abroad to the tune of millions of rupees obtained from illegal business of land grabbing and thereby committed offences punishable with Sections 409, 420, 468, 471, 109/34 of Pakistan Penal Code.”

According to the other FIR (45/2015) registered by the FIA on a complaint of deputy director of exchange policy department, the State Bank of Pakistan, Mohammad Ahsan alias Chunnu Mamu and his wife Ms Sikandar Ahsan in collusion with the banker remained involved in illegal purchase of foreign currencies and sending remittances out of Pakistan through Hawala through a director of Gohar Exchange Company, Syed Mohammad Ashfaq, and his associates/employees namely Mohammad Masoom-ul-Hassan, Amjad Iqbal, Imran Iqbal and others.

The FIA claimed that Ashfaq had been running ‘illegal business of Hawala’ and illegal sale/purchase of foreign currencies under the cover of Gohar Exchange. Its (exchange) branch is located at room No 82, Old Building, Karachi Stock Exchange and established under the licence of the SBP and thus ‘violating the rules and regulations of the SBP’.

According to the FIR, Iqbal Rasheed illegally purchased foreign currencies from Gohar Exchange Company and deposited the same in such bank accounts that were opened ‘dishonestly and fraudulently’ with the collusion of Ahsan alias Chunnu Mamu for onward transfer of illegally deposited funds out of Pakistan.

The FIR contained the account numbers of Mohammad Ahsan in two branches of NIB and one UBL, which the FIA believed were opened and operated with ‘mala fide intentions’.

Furthermore, Iqbal Rasheed sent remittances out of Pakistan through Hawala and the ‘illegal services’ were provided by the exchange company director, Ashfaq, through the employees.

Hotel in Bur Dubai

The FIA said they traced that Iqbal Rasheed with the collusion of Ahsan alias Chunnu Mamu sent 300,000 dirham to Dubai through Hawala in May 2015 by availing illegal services of Gohar Exchange and the cash was received there.

“The funds were illegally transferred through Hawala for purchase of Grand Midwest Hotel, Bur Dubai, the UAE,” stated the FIR.

Earlier in February 2014, Iqbal Rasheed in collusion with Ahsan alias Chunnu Mamu sent remittances to London through Hawala by availing ‘illegal services’ of Gohar Exchange and cash amount was deposited in two banks in the UK.

According to the FIR, 5,000 pounds transferred through Hawala was deposited in an account (number 00610070) in Hailifax Bank, Station Road Branch, Edgware London, the UK (SORT Code 11-02-69) and the account belonged to Mohammad Ahsan. Similarly, 2,000 British pounds was deposited in an account (80647782) of Natwest Bank, Station Road Hale Lane Branch, Edgware London, the UK (SORT code 52-10-33). The FIA claimed that this bank account belonged to Ms SikandarAhsan, the wife of Ahsan alias Chunnu Mamu.

The FIA also alleged that Gohra Exchange had been conducting illegal business of Hawala since long in clandestine manner and had been providing illegal services of Hawala to their other clients as well.

“The whole illegal business is run under the knowledge and consent of Hanif Gohar, one of the directors of the exchange company and major shareholder,” according to contents of the FIR.

“His role is being determined and will be finalized during the course of investigation.”

The FIA said that Ahsan alias Chunnu Mamu, his wife and Iqbal Rasheed illegally purchased foreign currencies and also sent remittances out of Pakistan through Hawala through Gohar Exchange.

“The illegal act of said accused persons and others constitute offences punishable under Sections 4, 5, 8, 22 and 23 of the Foreign Exchange Regulations Act.”

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2015

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