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Judge reserves ruling for today on FIA plea to arrest MQM leaders

Updated April 20, 2019

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Investigators also seek permission to seize record of properties, bank accounts of money laundering suspects.
Investigators also seek permission to seize record of properties, bank accounts of money laundering suspects.

KARACHI: The Federal Investigation Agency on Friday sought permission from an antiterrorism court to grill and detain Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan leaders, their relatives and to search and confiscate record of their properties and bank accounts in a money laundering and terror financing case.

London-based MQM founder Altaf Hussain, former federal minister Babar Ghauri, former senator Ahmed Ali, former deputy mayor Arshad Vohra, Khawaja Sohail Mansoor and Khawaja Rehan have been booked in the case.

On Friday, the FIA moved two application through its special public prosecutor Bakhtiar Channa under Sections 8 (attachment of properties involved in money laundering), 14 (search and seizure of properties), 15 (search of persons) and 16 (power to arrest) of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010 and Section 94 (summons to produce documents or other things) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Investigators also seek permission to seize record of properties, bank accounts of money laundering suspects

Mr Channa, through a progress report, informed the court that investigations uncovered that the Khidmat-i-Khalq Foundation, the MQM’s charity wing, had five local bank accounts, but only three of them were audited.

The report further mentioned that around Rs500 million had been transferred from an account of the KKF to the MQM’s account from 2013 onwards.

It was further mentioned that Senator Ali had joined the KKF as finance director in 2012 and later became its deputy trustee and then trustee during 2013-14. During this period, the KKF started meeting the financial expenditures of the party chief Altaf Hussain, then the whole London secretariat, it added.

The prosecutor said later the KKF was tasked with meeting expenditures of all party leaders during their visits to London and each visitor was given around 5,000 pounds in cash to deposit in the London secretariat.

It was told that 14 accounts — seven each in the name of Ahmed Ali and his company Knitware — had been used for conversion of local currency into 2,056,000 pounds during three and a half years.

He was also a signatory of two official bank accounts of the MQM and seven bank accounts of the KKF, he added.

Similarly, 1,400,000 pounds were converted from local currency deposited in three accounts in the name of Khawaja Sohail Mansoor, he added. Besides, he had obtained three credit cards from local banks, which were used for payments in the UK, but Mansoor would repay the banks in Karachi.

The prosecutor added that Sohail’s brother, Rehan Mansoor, had got converted Rs250m into different foreign currencies from his bank account while his wife also got converted Rs360m into foreign currencies from her bank account.

He said it was believed that the local money converted into foreign currency was laundered abroad through small cash transfers by party leaders visiting the UK. Therefore, the suspects, their spouses or kin needed to be interrogated to see whether the money was laundered abroad and also used for terror financing in the country, the prosecutor added.

He said the FIA needed to grill them and arrest them if any plausible evidence was found against them under the provisions of the AMLA, 2010.

The prosecutor further said that the investigators also needed to search certain properties, including some offices, located in Karachi and confiscate any material, if found from there and deemed necessary to be confiscated.

Therefore, the court was asked to permit the FIA to interrogate the suspects, their relatives or anyone else and arrest them, search their properties and confiscate them, if need be, to complete the investigation in the present case.

The prosecutor also moved another application seeking a direction for different banks to provide the FIA necessary record of the transactions made to or from such persons’ local and foreign bank accounts since it was required to investigate whether or not 42 properties found in Pakistan in the name of the KKF were purchased with the laundered money.

Concluding his arguments, Mr Channa maintained that it was not necessary to issue a notice to the defence before passing orders on these applications as the matter was between the investigating officer and the court as it had been clearly mentioned in the AMLA, 2010.

After hearing the prosecutor’s arguments, the judge fixed the matter for passing orders on the applications on Saturday (today).

Meanwhile, the judge also fixed the bail application of Ahmed Ali for passing an order on the next date.

The FIA had booked Mr Hussain in October 2017 — a year after the British investigators had dropped a money laundering probe against him because of “insufficient evidence”.

A progress report submitted by the IO earlier stated that the investigation in the case had revealed that around Rs1.32 billion allegedly collected from people through extortion and ransom during 2013-15 were deposited in the bank accounts of the KKF.

On a complaint of UK-based businessman Sarfaraz Merchant, a case was registered against Mr Hussain in Pakistan under relevant sections of the law.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2019