DADU: The Federal Inves­tigation Agency (FIA) has started digging deep into cyberattacks on different organisations, particularly banks, with an improved focus on cybercrime that resulted in the arrest of as many as 1,160 suspects this year.

FIA Director General Dr Sanaullah Abbasi expressed these views while speaking to Dawn during his visit to FIA zones in Sindh on Sunday.

The FIA DG, in response to a question, said the agency was investigating the cyberattack on the National Bank of Pakistan, as all stakeholders agreed that it came under FIA’s domain.

The NBP, despite being hit by a cyberattack in the end of October, has not lodged a formal complaint, according to sources.

DG says 75,356 complaints received in a year

Asked if the FIA faced resistance from the bank, Dr Abbasi said that when he talked to top officials of the NBP and State Bank of Pakistan, they all agreed that the cyberattack on the bank came under FIA’s domain.

About its ongoing operations against cybercrime and money laundering, the FIA DG said that only this year the agency had received 75,356 complaints about cybercrime, indicating the gigantic challenge that it had to meet despite staff shortage. He said 14,757 inquiries were initiated, 1,083 cases registered and 1,160 suspects arrested. He said the cases were being pursued in courts, with the result that 28 of the suspects had already been convicted.

Similarly, he added, the FIA had registered 911 money laundering cases and arrested 1,025 suspects since 2017. He said that 197 of the suspects had already been convicted and more than Rs5.3 billion seized as case property in these matters.

Responding to a question about illegal foreign exchange dealers, Dr Abbasi said the FIA had in crackdowns on the operators arrested 60 suspects and recovered local and foreign currencies worth Rs263.128 million.

While taking actions against illegal holding of Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) assets, the FIA retrieved 13 properties worth more than Rs2 billion, he said, adding that 17 persons were booked and arrested for illegally holding the ETPB assets. The FIA DG confirmed to Dawn that properties worth billions of rupees had been handed over to the ETPB. Besides, he said, 59 other cases of evacuee property were also under investigation.

The FIA DG during his two-day visit to Sindh reviewed progress of inquiries and complaints in different matters related with Nawabshah, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana and Karachi zones.

When asked about the shortage of staff and resources in the FIA to handle tens of thousands of complaints, Dr Abbasi said the recruitment process had already been started while the federal agency had been directed to take services of police, customs and other departments on a need basis.

He disclosed that the FIA had received 1.1 million applications for 1,100 vacant positions. After an agreement with Virtual University, the FIA was confident that it would be completed soon.

He said physical test of the candidates had been conducted, while the university was going to conduct exams of the candidates. Dr Abbasi said the prime focus of the FIA was cybercrime, besides money laundering.

The FIA DG earlier chaired a meeting of senior officers from the headquarters and all zonal directors. He also visited the FIA Hyderabad Sindh-Zone-II where he issued directives to speed up inquiries.

Speaking to the media, Dr Abbasi said the federal agency had recovered a total of Rs20 billion in a year, while investigations into some major corruption cases were under way. He said the FIA was working together with different departments to purge the country of corruption.

Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2021

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