KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Wednesday dismissed an appeal of the Federal Investigation Agency against a trial court order of acquitting four foreign exchange dealers and as many bank officials of the charges of falsification of bank accounts for illegal transfer of money abroad.

The FIA had filed a criminal revision appeal against the acquittal after a banking court had exonerated the directors of Khanani and Kalia International — Mohammad Javed Khanani and Abdul Munaf Kalia — and six others in March 2011.

After hearing the FIA and counsel for the respondents, a two-judge SHC bench headed by Justice Aftab Ahmed Gorar dismissed the appeal through a short order and said the reasons would be recorded later.

The bench asked a deputy attorney general and a deputy director of the FIA what the illegality was in the trial court’s order. They could not give any satisfactory reply.

The lawyers for the respondents, Shaukat Hayat, Hummul Zubedi and others argued that there was no illegality in the judgement of the trial court and adding that the lower courts had also acquitted their clients in two other connected cases for want of evidence.

Bench asks FIA what the illegality was in the trial court’s order, gets no satisfactory reply

In March 2011, a special banking court had exonerated four forex dealers — Abdul Munaf Kalia, his brother Hanif Kalia, Javed Khanani and Atif Polani — of the charges of opening bogus bank accounts with the help of co-accused Masood Abbas, Syed Wajahat Ali, Tasleem Ahmed and Arif-ur-Rehman of Allied Bank, Habib Bank and MyBank, respectively, and allegedly using them for unlawful transfer of billions of dollars abroad.

Initially, the FIA had arrested Mohammad Javed Khanani and Abdul Munaf Kalia and Hanif S. Kalia, the chairman of the Kalia Group, in November 2008 and the bank officials were arrested in December.

The FIA in the final charge sheet said that a case was registered against the accused on Nov 15 after initiating an inquiry on a complaint lodged by the State Bank regarding an illegal transfer of money abroad. Besides two official websites, the firm had fraudulently created a website (www.clickpk.net) and database ‘Exchange plus’ and ‘Foxpro’ with criminal intentions without declaring it to the SBP and used them for illegal transactions, it was contended in the charge sheet.

It further maintained that the company had also installed huge computing machines and devices at its head office at Saima Trade Centre on I.I. Chundrigar Road, which enabled the company’s franchise offices set up across the country automatic access to the main system to facilitate such transactions, adding that the accused allegedly used to get the help of a Dubai-based exchange firm for money laundering and in this regard co-accused Atif Polani and Javed Qasim helped them.

A case was registered against the accused under sections 406 (punishment for criminal breach of trust), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker merchant or agent), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine a forged document), 477-A (falsification of accounts) and 109 (abetment) of the Pakistan Penal Code, Sections 5/8 (restriction on payments/restriction on import and export of certain currency and bullion), 22/23 (false statements/penalty and procedure) of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947 read with sections 7 (electronic fraud), 8 (electronic forgery) and 20 (other offences) of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance, 2007 at the FIA crime circle, Karachi.

Later, the FIA bifurcated the case and filed three separate charge sheets before different courts.

The special banking court tried the accused in the scheduled offences under the PPC. The offences against the foreign exchange dealers under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947 were tried by a sessions court judge, who also acquitted them in 2013.

In April 2010, a judicial magistrate had acquitted the accused in the offences under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2019