FinCEN Files: UK is Global Center For Money Laundering and Pakistan Among its Top 3 Sources
The latest leaks of US FinCEN (Financial Crime Enforcement Network) files show that the United Kingdom (UK) is the biggest global center for money laundering. An earlier report issued by the British Crime Agency put Pakistan among the world's top sources of money laundering in the United Kingdom. The latest FinCEN leaks represent just the tip of an iceberg. The leaked 2,100 FinCEN files covering $2 trillion worth of transactions that ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) and Buzzfeed reporters got their hands on represent just a small sliver of the roughly 12 million SARs FinCEN has received since 2011. Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly raised the issue of the West's inaction in stopping the illicit flows of hard currencies from developing nations to the developed world. Money laundering and other financial crimes affect the economic roots of a nation like Pakistan and slow down its human and socioeconomic development.
|FinCEN Leaks Represent Tip of Iceberg|
Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is an arm of the U.S. Treasury Department responsible for keeping tabs on and combating money laundering. All banks are required by US Law to file SARS (Suspicious Activity Reports) of transactions involving unclear sources and beneficiaries, or those connected to jurisdictions with a history of financial crime.
Banks file about 2.2 million such transactions each year. Very few of these are actually reviewed or investigated by the US government. Recently, journalists at Buzzfeed and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) have announced they have obtained 2,100 FinCEN files covering $2 trillion worth of transactions that represent just a small sliver of the roughly 12 million SARs FinCEN has received since 2011. Some of the biggest western banks, including HSBC, JP Morgan, Barclays and Standard Charter Bank are named among the institutions reporting SARS.
There are six Pakistani banks named among those filing suspicious activity reports with FinCEN. The banks named are Allied Bank, United Bank (UBL), Habib Metropolitan Bank, Bank Alfalah, Standard Chartered Bank Pakistan, and Habib Bank (HBL). According to the data revealed by ICIJ, 29 such suspicious transactions from and to Pakistan were flagged. Of those, the ‘received’ transactions amounted to $1,942,560, while the ‘sent’ transaction was $452,000.
FinCEN leaks show suspicious activity of a Dubai-registered company linked to Altaf Khanani of Pakistan through accounts at Danske Bank. “There can only be one reason why money has been moved out of Danske Bank and into his trading companies - and that is money laundering. Because that was the only thing that happened in those companies,” says Richard Grant, the former head of the Australian intelligence service told DR, a Danish news platform.
Pakistan Among Top 3 Sources:
British National Crime Agency (NCA) has identified Pakistan, Nigeria and Russia as the top source countries for money laundering in the United Kingdom, according to British media reports. The NCA report says the UK is a prime destination for foreign corrupt and politically exposed people (politicians and their families) to launder money.
In its annual assessment of serious and organized crime, the NCA says: “Investment in UK property, particularly in London, continues to be an attractive mechanism to launder funds....As the UK moves towards exiting the EU in March 2019, UK-based businesses may look to increase the amount of trade they have with non-EU countries....We judge this will increase the likelihood that UK businesses will come into contact with corrupt markets, particularly in the developing world, raising the risk they will be drawn into corrupt practices.”
1. "The UK is a prime destination for foreign corrupt PEPs (politically exposed persons, a euphemism for politicians and their family member) to launder the proceeds of corruption. Investment in UK property, particularly in London, continues to be an attractive mechanism to launder funds. The true scale of PEPs investment in the UK is not known, however the source countries that are most commonly seen are Russia, Nigeria and Pakistan".
2. "The overseas jurisdictions that have the most enduring impact on the UK across the majority of the different money laundering threats are: Russia, China, Hong Kong, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Some of these jurisdictions have large financial sectors which also make them attractive as destinations or transit points for the proceeds of crime."
|Politicians Dominate Panama Papers|
Panama Papers Leak:
The NCA report says there are "professional enablers from the banking, accounting and legal world" who facilitate the legitimization of criminal finances and are perpetuate the problem by refinancing further criminality.
In fact, there is an entire industry made up of lawyers and accountants that offers its services to help hide illicit wealth. Mossack Fonseca, the law firm that made headlines with "Panama Leaks", is just one example of companies in this industry.
Mossack Fonseca's 11.5 million leaked internal files contained information on more than 214,000 offshore entities tied to 12 current or former heads of state, 140 politicians, including Pakistan's now ex Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family. Icelandic Prime Minister resigned voluntarily and Pakistani Prime Minister was forced out by the country's Supreme Court.
The Panama list included showbiz and sports celebrities, lawyers, entrepreneurs, businessmen, journalists and other occupations but it was heavily dominated by politicians.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is linked to 9 companies connected to his family name. Those involved are: Hassan Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz, Maryam Nawaz, Relatives of Punjab Chief Minister and brother of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif are linked to 7 companies. They are: Samina Durrani and Ilyas Meraj.
Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was linked to one company. Her relatives and associates are linked to others: Nephew Hassan Ali Jaffery Javed Pasha, Close friend of Asif Ali Zardari (4 companies), PPP Senator Rehman Malik (1 company), PPP Senator Osman Saifullah’s family (34 companies), Anwar Saifullah, Salim Saifullah, Humayun Saifullah, Iqbal Saifullah, Javed Saifullah, Jehangir Saifullah. The Chaudharies of Gujrat have not been linked personally but other relatives have including: Waseem Gulzar Zain Sukhera (co-accused with former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s son in the Hajj scandal).
Pakistani Businessmen in Panama Leaks: Real Estate tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain’s son (Bahria Town) Ahmad Ali Riaz (1 company), Chairman ABM Group of Companies Azam Sultan (5 companies), Pizza Hut owner Aqeel Hussain and family (1 company), Brother Tanwir Hassan Chairman Soorty Enterprise Abdul Rashid Soorty and family, Sultan Ali Allana, Chairman of Habib Bank Limited (1 company), Khawaja Iqbal Hassan, former NIB bank President (1 company), Bashir Ahmed and Javed Shakoor of Buxly Paints (1 company), Mehmood Ahmed of Berger Paints (1 company), Hotel tycoon Sadruddin Hashwani and family (3 companies), Murtaza Haswani Owner of Hilton Pharma, Shehbaz Yasin Malik and family (1 company), The Hussain Dawood family (2 companies), Shahzada Dawood Abdul Samad Dawood Partner Saad Raja, The Abdullah family of Sapphire Textiles (5 companies), Yousuf Abdullah and his wife, Muhammad Abdullah and his wife, Shahid Abdullah and his family, Nadeem Abdullah and family, Amer Abdullah and family, Gul Muhammad Tabba of Lucky Textiles, Shahid Nazir, CEO of Masood Textile Mills (1 company), Partner Naziya Nazir Zulfiqar Ali Lakhani, from Lakson Group and owner of Colgate-Palmolive, Tetley Clover and Clover Pakistan (1 company) and Zulfiqar Paracha and family of Universal Corporation (1 company).
Pakistani Judges in Panama Leaks: Serving Lahore High Court Judge Justice Farrukh Irfan, Retired Judge Malik Qayyum, Pakistani Media personnel in Panama Leaks: Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman of GEO-Jang Media Group (1 company).
FinCEN leaks differ from previous bank leaks such as the Panama Papers in a crucial way: They are a snapshot into financial crime that banks are openly reporting to the authorities.
These files mean, on a basic level, the reporting system is functioning. But the same leaks also show that banks frequently filed a SAR months after the transaction had taken place, and sometimes multiple times on the same client without anyone seemingly taking any action.
West's Inaction Hurts Poor Nations:
Speaking to the 75th plenary session pf the United Nations General Assembly (UNGS), Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan raised the issue of the West's inaction is stopping the illicit flows of hard currencies from developing nations to the developed world. He said:"Every year billions of dollars leave poor countries & go to rich countries. Billions of dollars siphoned by corrupt politicians to tax havens ,expensive properties bought in western capitals. It is devastating to the developing world".
Pakistanis see the United Kingdom as the "Money Laundering Capital of the World" where corrupt leaders from developing nations use wealth looted from their people to buy expensive real estate and other assets. Private individuals and businesses from poor nations also park money in the west and other off-shore tax havens to hide their incomes and assets from the tax authorities in their countries of residence.
The multi-trillion dollar massive net outflow of money from the poor to the rich countries has been documented by the US-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI). This flow of capital has been described as "aid in reverse". It has made big headlines in Pakistan and elsewhere since the release of the Panama Papers and the Paradise Leaks which revealed true owners of offshore assets held by anonymous shell companies. Bloomberg has reported that Pakistanis alone own as much as $150 billion worth of undeclared assets offshore.
The latest FinCEM leaks and previous Panama Papers as well as British crime agency reports confirm that the UK has attracted vast sums of illicit wealth from Pakistan and other emerging economies. Speaking to the 75th plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGS), Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan raised the issue of the West's inaction is stopping the illicit flows of hard currencies from developing nations to the developed world. He said:"Every year billions of dollars leave poor countries & go to rich countries. Billions of dollars siphoned by corrupt politicians to tax havens ,expensive properties bought in western capitals. It is devastating to the developing world". Money laundering and other financial crimes affect the economic roots of a nation like Pakistan and slow down its human and socioeconomic development.
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Mr Sharif “has been responsible for pillaging the state and I trust that you will be supportive of our efforts to bring those responsible for corruption to account”, Mr Khan’s adviser, Mirza Shahzad Akbar, wrote to Ms Patel on October 5.
After the Panama Papers revealed hidden assets belonging to Mr Sharif’s family, he resigned as prime minister in 2017. The following year a Pakistan court sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment for corruption. He has claimed that this and other corruption cases against him are politically motivated.
In November 2019 he flew to London after the Pakistan authorities granted him leave to travel abroad for eight weeks to seek treatment for various conditions. He sought an extension of his temporary release but the Pakistan authorities refused on the grounds that he had offered inadequate medical evidence and ordered Mr Sharif to return home.
According to records submitted to the Pakistan authorities, he has given as his London address the very flat on London’s opulent Park Lane that led to his downfall. His family’s ownership of the flat was exposed by the leak of secret files from the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The letter to Ms Patel urges her to use her “extensive powers” to deport Mr Sharif, arguing she is “duty bound” to do so. It cites immigration rules that criminals sentenced to four years or more must be refused leave to remain in the UK. A Pakistan court has issued a warrant for Mr Sharif’s arrest, the letter adds.
A Pakistan official said the UK had not yet formally responded. The Home Office declined to comment.
“Foreign politicians with convictions relating to corruption should not enjoy impunity in Britain. Nor should their unexplained wealth, stashed in luxury London properties, fall out of the reach of law enforcement,” said Daniel Bruce, head of Transparency International UK.
“The UK government should work constructively with democratic countries such as Pakistan to uphold the rule of law. Action should also be taken to seize and return illicit assets held here in Britain in order to deliver justice for the victims of corruption. Failure to act on cases such as this, earns the UK an unwelcome reputation as a safe haven for dirty money.”
BBC journalist Stephen Sackur is known for grilling his guests on his show 'HardTalk and former finance minister Ishaq Dar was no exception as he was posed with hardhitting questions.
Soon after the interview was aired snippets were widely shared on Pakistani Twitter Dar answering Sackur's questions with #IshaqDar and #StephenSackur becoming the top trends in the country.
One Twitter user said that Dar expected the interview be like Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir's 'Capital Talk', however, he the PML-N leader was in for a rude awakening.
Journalist Shiffa Yousafzai drew attention to Sackur telling the former minister that "Nawaz Sharif worked hand in glove with Zia ul Haq and now the PML-N is complaining about military interference in politics".
Yousafzai added that the journalist interviewing PML-N vice-president would be "interesting"
Even the BBC journalist himself wrote on his Twitter handle that his interview had caused quite a stir in Pakistan.
Dar said PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif is struggling for democracy and supremacy of the parliament in Pakistan and the current government is a form of 'judicial martial law'.
The now absconding former minister said he does not accuse the army, as an institution, of undermining the democratic process in Pakistan but stated that "it is the will and plan of some people, the same people who enforce martial law in Pakistan".
When Dar was asked if the army or the army chief were undermining democracy, he said that the PML-N is not alone and international reports also have said the same. "I am not talking about the entire institution, we need to differentiate. These are the wishes and plans of certain people, the same people who enforce martial law in Pakistan."
"We are saying that if the elections were rigged, and this has now been proven, without doubt, someone is planning the entire thing. This is not us saying it, but the interior minister of Pakistan said that if Nawaz Sharif did not have issues with the institutions and the deep state, he would have become prime minister for the fourth time."
When asked if he had come to London seeking refuge as he is an absconder in Pakistan, the former finance minister said corruption allegations have been used repeatedly in the country's history and in the present circumstances, the current government is a "judicial martial law".
Dar: What credibility does Imran Khan have....it was a rigged election (in 2018)....a stolen election...Pakistan Human Rights commission said so"
Sackur: EU (election) monitors reported some concerns about not just one party but several different parties..but they said the result was credible....Imran Khan's victory was credible.
Fact: Ishaq Dar is quite competent in Money Laundering. He has been doing it for Nawaz Sharif for decades. He testified before a magistrate on April 25, 2000 that Sharif brothers used the Hudaibya Paper Mills as cover for money laundering during the late 1990s.
UNDER THE CHARTERED INSITUTE OF ARBITRATION RULESBETWEEN:
- and -
(1) The Islamic Republic of Pakistan (2) The National Accountability Bureau
PART FINAL AWARD (Quantum)
Sir Anthony Evans 24 Lincoln’s Inn Fields London
Date: Dec 17, 2018
Stroz Friedberg was instructed to carry out a ‘forensic audit’ (or ‘inventory’) of the JIT Report. This consisted of identifying potentially recoverable assets of the Sharif Family that were referred to in it and ascribing a valuation to each. This resulted in a list of 76 items of property in three overseas jurisdictions, namely, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the United Kingdom, as well as in Pakistan, with total values that were corrected in the Revised SF Report to take account of Mr. Bezant’s comments on it. The revised total was US$820.8 million. The third instruction was “to apply the 20% rate due Broadsheet as outlined in the ARA” – a mechanical application of the 20% rate provided four in the ARA clause 4 – which resulted in a total ‘Loss of Revenue’ for Broadsheet of US$164.2 million. The fourth was to establish a ‘borrowing rate of interest’ for each of the 76 items of loss and to apply it from what they considered was the appropriate date. The interest calculation increased the total of ‘Broadsheet’s Entitlement’ to US$304.6 million.
The 2017/8 proceedings, however, in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, including the JIT Investigation and Report, have produced a very different situation where (subject to pending appeals) there is an authoritative listing of personal and family assets totalling (as corrected) US$820 million, both in Pakistan and abroad, and where certain real property in the United Kingdom valued at US$13 million (“the Avenfield flats”) has been forfeited to the Pakistan State as having been acquired with corrupt assets. These call for separate consideration in this Award.
As stated above, the total value of assets both in Pakistan and overseas listed by the JIT is agreed by the expert witnesses as US$820 million. Whilst accepting that this figure must be discounted to take account of many factors, not least the costs of recovery etc., Claimant’s representatives have put it forward as what might be called the gross amount of possible recoveries by NAB for the purpose of calculating Broadsheet’s potential entitlement to 20 per cent, under the ARA Clause 4.
Those named include top cabinet members, ministers, media moguls, relatives of army officers and powerful businessmen.
Politicians or politically exposed persons:
Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin and his family
Minister for Water Resources Moonis Elahi
Ex-federal minister and Senator Faisal Vawda
Son of PM’s former adviser for finance and revenue Waqar Masood Khan, Abdullah Masood Khan
Family of Minister for Industries and Production Khusro Bakhtiyar
PTI leader Abdul Aleem Khan
PPP’s Sharjeel Memon
PML-N’s Ishaq Dar’s son Ali Dar
PTI donor Arif Naqvi
PTI donor Tariq Shafi
Wife of PML-Q boss Chaudhry Pervez Elahi
Former FBR chairman and finance secretary Salman Siddiq’s son Yawar Salman
Army officers or their family members
Wife of retired Lt Gen Shafaat Ullah Shah
Raja Nadir Pervez, retired army officer and former minister
Retired Maj Gen Nusrat Naeem, former ISI director general of counterintelligence
Umar and Ahad Khattak, sons of former Pakistan Air Force chief Abbas Khattak
Retired Lt Gen Habibullah Khan Khattak's daughter Shahnaz Sajjad Ahmad (also the sister of retired Lt Gen Ali Kuli Khan and sister-in-law of former federal minister Gohar Ayub Khan)
Retired Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal Muzaffar’s son Muhammad Hasan Muzaffar
Retired Lt Gen Khalid Maqbool’s son-in-law Ahsan Latif
Retired Lt Gen Tanvir Tahir’s wife Zahra Tanvir
Axact CEO Shoaib Sheikh
National Bank of Pakistan President Arif Usmani
National Investment Trust Managing Director Adnan Afridi
Peshawar Zalmi owner and renowned industrialist Javed Afridi
Jang Group publisher Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman
Dawn Media Group CEO Hameed Haroon
Express Media Group publisher Sultan Ahmed Lakhani
Pakistan Today publisher (late) Arif Nizami
The Gourmet Group, which also owns the GNN TV channel
Header image: (From L-R) Senator Faisal Vawda, PPP leader Sharjeel Memon and Axact CEO Shoaib Sheikh are among the Pakistanis named in the Pandora Papers. — DawnNewsTV/Online/File
While owning offshore companies or bank accounts per se does not automatically imply culpability, it is incumbent on all the named, especially those holding senior governmental positions, to provide evidence of transparent money trails and of the declaration of such assets with the tax authorities in Pakistan.
Welcoming the release of the Pandora Papers, Prime Minister Imran Khan stated that it once again exposed “the ill-gotten wealth of elites, accumulated through tax evasion & corruption & laundered out to financial ‘havens’… ”. He also highlighted that the UN Secretary General’s panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) estimates that as much as $7 trillion of stolen assets are parked in largely offshore tax havens. The Papers include names of politicians in high office as well as retired military officials, businessmen and media owners.
.... In a move that lives up to his crusade against corruption, Prime Minister Imran Khan set up a high-level cell under the Inspection Commission to investigate the matter with the objective of holding “everyone involved in the Pandora leaks accountable” and promised to make the investigation public. It would also be consistent with the PM’s earlier stance that those implicated in the leaks should not be in positions that can in any manner influence the investigation while it is being carried out.
...It is also argued that Pakistan’s anti-corruption campaign is ineffective and used more as an instrument of political victimization than toward improving overall governance. While there is some validity in questioning the effectiveness and motives of the anti-corruption efforts, the ‘greasing the wheels’ reasoning, in toto, does not stand up to scrutiny.
In China it has been argued that corruption — euphemistically also called access money — has helped speed up economic growth. However, the renowned political scientist, Yuen Yuen Ang, who has extensively examined the matter, states in a recent article that corruption “spurred government officials to promote construction and investment aggressively, regardless of whether it was sustainable. Luxury properties that enriched colluding state and business elites have mushroomed across the country, while affordable housing remains in short supply…”. More ominously she points out that “Corruption, inequality and financial meltdowns can trigger social unrest and erode the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party...”.
Corruption has distorted incentives and market forces, and acted as a tax on business that has raised production costs and reduced the profitability of investments. Even more perversely it has dissuaded international investors from considering Pakistan as an investment destination, thereby suppressing the inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country. On the basis of a survey of 390 senior executives in 14 countries, a PricewaterhouseCoopers study reported that 45 percent of respondents refused to enter markets where corruption risks were perceived to be high.
Corruption’s corrosive influence on the overall governance and business environment as well as the extraction of resources into offshore accounts such as those disclosed in Pandora Papers has undermined Pakistan’s growth prospects and poverty alleviation efforts. It has denuded already scarce resources available for investment in health and education, thereby limiting human capital development and enhancement of its productive capabilities. It is therefore indisputable that all forms of corrupt practices, both direct and indirect, must be eliminated. While some of that will require structural change and take time, in the near-term international enforcement mechanisms must be mobilized to shut down avenues that facilitate illicit financial flows.
For years, Britain actively courted Russian billionaires, ignoring reports that some of their wealth was suspect. Today, there's so much Russian cash in Britain, the capital has been nicknamed "Londongrad." British Intelligence has warned that oligarchs' money is propping up Putin's regime – and helping to fund the war in Ukraine. As we first reported in April, the U.K. is under pressure to show its Western allies it can stop the flood of corrupt money.
Dominic Grieve: Money has been flowing into the United Kingdom — absolutely no doubt about this — which often has had what I can only describe as a tainted source. But then Russia is a mafia state.
Dominic Grieve is a former conservative member of Parliament, who served as attorney general and chaired Britain's intelligence committee. His 2019 report on Russian interference in U.K. politics, found Britain was awash in Russian oligarchs' money — much of it from untraceable sources.
This is Belgravia. These neighborhoods around Eaton Square are some of the most expensive on Earth. Once the exclusive preserve of dukes and barons, now…
Oliver Bullough: There was a general feeling that if the money was coming here and paying taxes that was building schools and building roads and building hospitals, then we didn't care where it came from.
Govt can exempt judiciary, armed forces’ members from disclosure
The government is walking a tight rope to implement all conditions by end of this month, if it is keen to get the IMF Board’s approval for the loan tranche on January 12.
The sources said that the IMF has imposed another condition that the high-level public office holders and the civil servants of basic pay scale (BPS) 17 and above, their spouses, children or benamidars, or any person in relation to whom these persons are beneficial owners will file their asset declarations with the Federal Board of Revenue. These assets will be then made public.
The government has also defined the high-level public officials who will be required to file their declarations which will be made public. An amendment is being drafted where only politically exposed persons defined by a rule, regulation, executive order or instrument; or under any law for the time being in force would be required to file their declarations, the sources said.
The government had resisted the demand to ensure compulsory declaration on the grounds that these people were already required to submit their asset details in the Establishment Division. However, the IMF did not agree to it and instead asked Pakistan that such declarations should be filed with the tax authorities.
However, many bureaucrats did not file their asset declarations, nor did they submit their annual income tax returns, including many taxmen.
The IMF’s view was that any important position holder drawing salary from the budget should disclose assets to ensure transparency.
“The disclosure of information in respect of high-level public officials is proposed in line with the requirements of the development partners, rule of law and integrity,” the note sent by the FBR chairman to the finance adviser about changes being made in the tax laws read.
However, the government has found a way out where the declarations filed by members of the armed forces would not be made public, the sources said, adding that the exception has been created by Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem.
Barrister Naseem was not available for comments.
The sources said that the requirement of non-disclosure of the asset declarations would not be applicable on those who were currently exempted from the applicability of the National Accountability Ordinance.
A proviso is likely to be inserted in the law that will state that nothing in clause (t) shall apply to those who are expressly exempted under clause (iv) of sub-section (m) of Section 5 of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.
What Clause 5 (m) (iv) says?
A person who is holding, or has held, an office or post in the service of Pakistan, or any service in connection with the affairs of the Federation, or of a province, or of a local council constituted under any federal or provincial law relating to the constitution of local councils, or in the management of corporations, banks, financial institutions, firms, concerns, undertakings or any other institution or organisation established, controlled or administered by or under the federal government or a provincial government, other than a person who is a member of any of the armed forces of Pakistan, or for the time being is subject to any law relating to any of the said forces, except a person who is, or has been a member of the said forces and is holding, or has held, a post or office in any public corporation, bank, financial institution, undertaking or other organisation established, controlled or administered by or under the federal government or a provincial government.