Javed Khanani and Munaf Kalia were arrested by the FIA in a dramatic raid in November 2008 when a complaint lodged against one of their franchises in Gujranwala led to the discovery of a parallel money transfer system being operated by their company — KKI — for purposes of transferring money out of the country through illegal hundi/hawala channels.
Their arrest sparked much commentary that their company was largely responsible for the massive flight of capital that took place from Pakistan in those days, putting serious pressure on the exchange rate and prompting an emergency appeal from the government to the International Monetary Fund.
Their company reportedly carried out 40pc of all money exchange transactions in the country at the time, according to the FIA officials connected with the investigation quoted on record in the days after the arrest.
Hanif Kalia, who is Munaf’s elder brother and served as the group chairman of KKI, was arrested at his residence in Karachi later that month. The FIA searched for Altaf Khanani and Owais Kalia at the time but was not able to apprehend them since they lived abroad. Both were directors in the company.
Shortly afterwards, Atif Polani was arrested at Karachi airport after arriving on a flight from Dubai. He was accused of being an associate in KKI’s dealings in Dubai.
Multiple cases were registered against them in Karachi, Lahore and Abbottabad, for running a hundi/hawala operation, among other affiliated charges. The cases ran into difficulties across the board, and by March of 2011 they were acquitted in all but one case left in Lahore, and they obtained their release orders from the court. The Lahore case is still alive.
The cases were marked by striking irregularities. For example, in the case in Abbottabad, Khanani and Kalia were principal accused but were let off the hook when the Investigation Officer (IO) reportedly omitted their names from the final challan filed with the court. The IO was quoted at the time as saying that the omission was “accidental”.
Following another acquittal in 2011 by a banking court, then FIA director general Waseem Ahmed gave an angry public statement, saying the accused had “used their resources” to obtain their acquittals. The Supreme Court took notice of the remarks and ordered the chief justice of the Sindh High Court to conduct an inquiry during which Ahmed gave his testimony in private to the judge in his chambers. A month later Ahmed tendered his resignation.
In January 2015, Javed Khanani was charged again by the FIA in a fresh hundi/hawala transaction discovered after all the original cases against them were finished. He was held briefly in custody, along with his manager, before being released on bail.
In November of 2015, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan took notice of Altaf Khanani’s arrest in the United States and ordered a re-inquiry into the whole case. No further developments have been reported on that front.
Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2016