KARACHI: The Federal Investigation Agency has started the process of attaching properties owned by the Shaheen Airlines International (SAI), whose licence has been suspended since 2018, as part of its investigations into a money laundering case against the management, it emerged on Friday.

According to officials and documents reviewed by Dawn, the FIA registered a case against SAI in 2020 for causing a loss of Rs2.1 billion to the Civil Aviation Authority.

Besides, the airline was also accused of causing a loss of Rs200 million to Sialkot Airport, FIA deputy director Rauf Sheikh said.

Money laundering case lodged against jewellery exporter

The airline had also committed ‘wilful default’ amounting to Rs11bn against the Habib Bank Limited and Rs50m wilful default against the United Bank Limited, he said, adding the owners established firms in the UAE and purchased properties in Pakistan and abroad with this money.

The director of FIA’s Sindh zone, Munir Ahmed Sheikh, said the FIA had registered a case against SAI chief executive officer Ehsan Khalid Sehbai and eight other directors on July 13, 2020 on charges of alleged misappropriation of amount payable to CAA.

He said subsequently the suspects “laundered the proceeds of crime” in different bank accounts in Pakistan and abroad. They purchased properties with the proceeds of crime, he alleged.

An application filed by the FIA before the district and sessions court, Malir, said: “It is respectfully prayed before this Hon’ble Court that prior permission under the sections 8(1) of the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Act 2010 may kindly be accorded for provisional attachment of the properties involved in money laundering.”

The FIA director said the court had granted approval to the FIA.

Case against jewellery exporter Separately, the FIA on Friday lodged a money laundering case against a gold jewellery exporter.

The FIA director said investigations against a former deputy director of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), Mohammed Shakeel, and six gold exporters of different firms were launched as the official had allowed registration of the firms as exporters of gold jewellery, silver jewellery, precious/semi-precious stones and platinum jewellery “without observing/completing codal formalities”.

The TDAP officer in “connivance/collusion” with the exporters issued authorisation to export containing fake/bogus E-Forms of three different banks in Karachi.

They exported 23-carat gold to the UAE “without generating remittances back to Pakistan”. The total financial impact on account of illegally/unlawfully exported gold on the basis of fake/bogus E-Forms was $515 million, he said.

The FIA director said during the probe, it came on record that a property measuring 2,000 square yards was purchased in DHA’s Phase-VIII by exporter Abdul Qadir alias Bhola.

“He purchased the said property from the proceeds of crime; thus he committed the offence of money laundering under Section 3 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010,” he said, adding that a case was registered against him.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2021

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