13 suspects held as FIA busts money laundering racket

Salis bin Perwaiz
Thursday, Jan 27, 2022

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Sindh, in a joint operation with a federal intelligence agency, has busted a racket of Hawal/Hundi operating through a known money changer, arrested 13 suspects and recovered foreign and local currencies worth tens of millions of rupees.

Those arrested were said to have been also involved in sending aid and remittances to their Pakistani networks at the behest of a foreign intelligence agency.

Talking to The News on Wednesday, FIA Director Sindh Amir Farooqi said a credible piece of information had been received through reliable sources that M/S Swiss International Exchange Company (Pvt) Limited situated in Jinnah Cottage Jamshed Quarter, MA Jinnah Road, Karachi, was running the illegal business of Hawala and Hundi without any authorisation of the State Bank of Pakistan.

The suspects were said to be involved in conducting transactions in and out of Pakistan without having banking channels and causing a huge loss to the government exchequer. They were also violating the provisions of sections 4/5/23 of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act 1947; hence, an inquiry was initiated for further proceedings.

In order to apprehend the suspects, FIA Director Farooqi constituted a raiding party headed by officials of the FIA’s Commercial Banking Circle Karachi and others.

Accordingly, personnel of the CBC raided a property of M/S Swiss International Exchange Company (Pvt) Limited, and on the pointation of sources, a raid was conducted on the premises of the company, where cashier Nasir Hussain and branch manager Asif Raza along with other staff of the company were present.

After the CBC team members introduced themselves and explained the reason for the raid, the officials of the company allowed a search of the premises. During the search, one suspicious door attached to an adjacent room behind the exchange company’s main premises was discovered. In that room, a man was found using two computers.

When asked what he had been doing there, he introduced himself as Hasnain and pretended to be manager of M/s Masooma Builders, but his reply was found unsatisfactory.

An examination of his cellphone and his WhatsApp chat with a person, Ali Raza, showed they were found having a conversation regarding a Hawala transaction. When his computers and two mobile phones were checked, it was found that Hasnain in collusion and active connivance o officials of M/S Swiss International Exchange Company and others had been indulging in the illegal business of Hundi and Hawala.

Thereafter, another search of the premises of the company as well as the camouflaged premises was conducted, and incriminating material was seized in the presence of witnesses.

The seizure included $18,000, Rs22.3 million and other foreign currencies. Moreover, highly sensitive and illegal documents were also taken from the possession of the suspect.

According to sources, the suspects were also involved in sending aid and remittances to Pakistani networks at the behest of a foreign intelligence agency. Hasnain also provided sensitive information from Pakistan to foreign agencies and backed hostile elements. The group had been active in Pakistan for the past seven years.

Subsequently, Nasir Hussain, Asif Raza and Hasnain were brought to the CBC police station for further questioning. The suspects were grilled about their modus operandi and nexus of the illegal business of Hundi and Hawala.

They admitted that the same illegal business of Hundi and Hawala was also being conducted at their other camouflaged locations. They pointed out the locations, including a house in Block 3, PECHS, being managed by Ali Raza and Murtaza Ali; Pearl Garden, PECHS Block 2; and Parsa Bond Centre at Ruby Centre opposite the City Post office, and Boulton Market, Karachi.

The matter was then brought into the knowledge of the competent authority and a request for the deployment of staff from other circles of the FIA was made. In response to the request, three teams were constituted to conduct parallel raids on the abovementioned premises.

FIA Director Farooqi said teams conducted raids at these locations, and after facing resistance arrested 10 more suspects on charges of involvement in the illegal business of Hawala and Hundi. The teams also seized a huge amount of foreign and currencies, prize bonds, cell phones, computers and other incriminating material.

An FIR has been lodged and further investigations are under way.