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FIA keeping close tabs on Chinese who may be behind bride trafficking in Sindh

Updated May 13, 2019

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A senior official says the agency has so far received no complaint from any part of Sindh. ─ AP/File
A senior official says the agency has so far received no complaint from any part of Sindh. ─ AP/File

KARACHI: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has widened the scope of its probe into the recently discovered “bride trafficking” racket and initiated an “intelligence-based” action in Sindh where a number of Chinese have already been caught for stealing data from banks and their customers through skimming devices, it emerged on Sunday.

A senior official told Dawn that the FIA-Sindh had already received a communiqué from its headquarters in Islamabad to be vigilant, outline its strategy and identify vulnerable areas where actionable information was available in line with the recent scandal.

The issue was taken more seriously here because parts of Sindh, including Karachi, had a history of criminal activities which allegedly involved Chinese nationals, he added.

“We are definitely vigilant here and keeping an eye on all relevant quarters and areas in this regard,” said FIA’s Sindh zone Director Sultan Khawaja. “The racket has been busted in Punjab where in fact in some cases victims approached the authorities which led to further investigation and detection of a gang. Here we have not received any complaint, but still we have started our job and making intelligence-based moves.”

A senior officials says the agency has so far received no complaint from any part of Sindh

The FIA in Punjab has so far arrested 39 people, mostly Chinese, and recovered some six girls in a case pertaining to fake marriages with Pakistani girls for trafficking them to China allegedly for organ removal and sexual exploitation.

The arrests were made in Islamabad, Ralwapindi and Faisalabad where the FIA also rounded up local facilitators of the Chinese gang. The series of arrests came a week after the Human Rights Watch said Pakistan should be alarmed by the recent reports of trafficking of women and girls to China. It said the allegations were disturbingly similar to the pattern of trafficking of “brides” to China from at least five other Asian countries.

Chinese concerns

The Chinese embassy in Islamabad has also raised the alarm over the illegal, cross-border match-making services that are often a front for human trafficking. Last month, it issued a statement condemning reports of the existence of bureaus orchestrating illegal marriages.

“China is working together with the Pakistani government and law enforcement agencies to track these illegal marriage centres,” their statement said.

After multiple arrests and collaboration with the Chinese authorities, the FIA believes that still the members of the gang may be operative and it cannot call the “case closed”.

“It lies under the anti-human trafficking cell of the FIA but, as I said, we are currently in the process of gathering all relevant information and data from different sources,” said Mr Khawaja of the FIA. “Fortunately we have not found any victim in Karachi or any other part of the province, but obviously we are taking it as a national level case so we are doing a few things considering the recent history of skimming scandal.”

Around half dozen Chinese nationals were arrested in Karachi over the last couple of years for their alleged involvement in stealing data of private banks from their ATMs through skimming devices. During the course of investigation, a private bank had confirmed hacking of its 559 accounts whose over Rs10 million was “stolen” through the fraud.

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2019