15 held in crackdown against illegal currency business

Published October 3, 2021
Huge amounts in foreign and local currencies were seized during the raids. — APP/File
Huge amounts in foreign and local currencies were seized during the raids. — APP/File

KARACHI: The Federal Investiga­tion Agency (FIA) has launched a massive crackdown against illegal currency business, hoarding and smuggling and during a major raid in Kar­achi local and foreign currency notes worth over Rs290 million were seized, said senior officials on Saturday.

FIA’s director for Sindh, Amir Farooqi, said the raids were carried out after taking into confidence the association of money changers and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

“There were intelligence reports that money is being sold illegally and parked in fictitious (bank) accounts for the purpose of illegal hoarding and subsequent smuggling, thus causing artificial dollar appreciation,” he said.

According to the intelligence reports, 79 individuals and businesses across Pakistan are involved in the anti-state and criminal activity.

FIA’s director general, Sanaullah Abbasi, chaired a meeting of the agency’s zonal directors on Saturday and gave instructions for action against the illegal business of hundi/hawala and hoarding of foreign currency.

“A massive crackdown was initiated and 51 raids were conducted all over Pakistan, especially in border areas, in which 15 suspects were taken into custody for further interrogation and eight FIRs have been registered so far,” said an official.

Huge amounts in foreign and local currencies were seized during the raids. More than 20 shops were sealed in Peshawar for their suspected involvement in illegal currency business.

“More than 25 FIA teams, supported by all law-enforcement agencies and provincial administrations, are in the field and conducting intelligence-based operations against illegal sale and purchase of currency and smuggling,” he said.

FIA is also collaborating with SBP, the Financial Management Unit, and other stakeholders for detecting any foul play conducted by registered forex companies and apprehending the culprits.

As a result, the price/value of the US dollar has stabilised and in some areas it has even come down. “This action will continue till this menace of illegal currency business and smuggling is put down with the iron hand of the law.”

Raid in Karachi

Acting on a tip, the FIA’s anti-corruption circle carried out a raid on the office of Swiss Exchange Company, located in Karachi’s Defence Phase-II (Ext), and detained its manager Sultan Damani.

During the raid, the FIA team seized $180,000, 3,000 pounds and Rs14,304,390 in Pakistani and foreign currencies, the total value of the banknotes working out to over Rs290m, from the office and the suspect’s residence in Clifton, said FIA official Nasrullah Khan.

The suspect told the interrogators that the foreign and local currency notes recovered from his room were not the declared capital of the exchange company and he was using the money for “illegal sale/purchase of foreign currency and hawala/hundi in his personal capacity”.

“Sultan Damani disclosed that he is involved in the business of hawala/hundi and illegal sale of currency notes for some importers; he also used to send/deposit money abroad through illegal channels of various individuals whose numbers and records are in his cell phones,” said an FIA document.

He also revealed that he had kept $180,000 at his “residence due to devaluation of Pak rupee, to get some undue gains”.

A case has been registered against him under relevant sections of the law.

Association’s stance

Chairman of the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan, Malik Bostan, said that he met FIA’s director general Abbasi and Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin the other day and assured them of his full cooperation for the crackdown against hoarding and smuggling of foreign currency notes. “We are extending help to the government in the interest of the country,” said Mr Bostan.

He said that last year foreign exchange companies had surrendered $6 billion to stabilise the local currency. He was of the opinion that the value of dollar had gone up lately because the US had seized $10bn in Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2021

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