LAHORE: The Punjab police have referred the cases of ‘top 25 (alleged) criminals’ to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to start proceedings against them under the anti-money laundering laws.

In the first-of-its-kind step, the police department identified them from ‘50 top criminals’ of Punjab shortlisted in the first phase in compliance to the task assigned to them in connection with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations. The names of 25 alleged criminals had been finalised when initial police inquiries found that they had made huge ‘properties/assets’ while committing heinous crimes including extortion, kidnap for ransom, land grabbing and through some other sources.

The cases have been transferred to the FIA to involve the Federal Board of Revenue, the Excise and Taxation and other relevant state departments for assessment of the suspected properties/assets of each criminal to start further proceedings under the anti-money laundering act.

The FATF has put Pakistan in the watchdog’s ‘increased monitoring list’ to check the entire anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing system of the country.

An official told Dawn that the government had for the first time extended the scope of investigation to the criminals of Punjab suspecting their involvement in money laundering. The purpose was to give a national role to the police to help the federal government implement the action plan recommended by the FATF.

He said the police acted against them following a high-level meeting which was chaired by Inspector General of Police Inam Ghani a week back. Additional IG Investigation Fiaz Ahmad Dev, Counter Terrorism Department Additional IG Wasim Sial, FIA Additional Director General Abu Bakar Khuda Baksh and two directors also attended the meeting.

During the meeting, the FIA officers suggested to Mr Ghani to empower the Punjab police on a permanent basis to probe money-laundering cases. For the purpose, they said, the police department required certain amendments to the laws to take action against the hardened criminals.

They proposed to the IGP to establish money-laundering units (MLUs) at the district level on the pattern of those working in the FIA and appoint district police officers (DPOs) as heads of each unit to ensure transparency in this respect.

The IGP agreed to the recommendations of the FIA officers and vowed to materialise these soon, the official said.

“In the first phase, 25 alleged criminals were shortlisted from various regions of the province -- Rawalpindi, Sargodha, DG Khan, Bahawalpur, Faisalabad and Sheikhupura regions and some of them from Lahore,” he said.

The cases have been assigned to the directors of Zone I and Zone II of the FIA who started proceedings against them, the official said. He added that the IG also constituted a committee of senior police officers to supervise the action against the criminals involved in money laundering.

Additional IG Investigation Punjab Fiaz Ahmad Dev heads the committee, he said, adding that the police department would prepare cases of 25 other shortlisted criminals to refer them to the FIA in the next phase.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2021

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