Convicted Money Launderer Altaf Khanani Had Close Ties to Top Pakistani Politicians
Convicted money launderer Altaf Khanani and his patrons among Pakistani politicians appear to have brought FATF's attention to Pakistan when the country was first put on its grey list back in 2012. A new national financial crimes bill was introduced by the ruling Pakistan People's Party which was so full of holes that a senior FIA official complained publicly it was "drafted by a money-launderer". Khanani is believed to have moved over $12 billion a year of dirty money through Pakistani banking system. Altaf Khanani's 2015 conviction on money laundering charges by a US court and recent FinCEN files confirm that Khanani was a big time international criminal. Khanani has recently been released after serving a 5 year sentence in a US jail. His current whereabouts are unknown. Pakistan was removed from FATF grey list in 2015 but it was back on it again in 2018.
|Pakistan on FATF Grey List|
Who is Altaf Khanani?
Altaf Khanani is a member of Karachi's memon business community. Along with his twin brother Javed, he started their money-changing business under the name of Khanani and Kalia Inc (KKI) in 1984. By the 1990s, more foreign currency was passing through KKI than the banking system of Pakistan! By 1997 many governments were looking into KKI’s network but the twins were close to Pakistan's ruling elite. In 2008, Khanani brothers were charged with money laundering in Pakistan but later exonerated due to lack of evidence. FIA's appeal against their acquittals were rejected by the Sindh High Court as recently as 2019. However, a US court convicted Altaf Khanani of money laundering in 2015 and sentenced him to 5 years in jail. His brother Javed died in mysterious circumstances in 2016. His death was labeled as suicide. KKI partner Munaf Kalia now lives in Karachi. Altaf has recently been released from a US prison after serving his 5 year term. His whereabouts are unknown.
A 2017 US State Department report labelled the Altaf Khanani group as a money laundering organization (MLO) and said it laundered billions of dollars of dirty money.
The 2017 US report said: “The Altaf Khanani money laundering organization (Khanani MLO) is based in Pakistan. The group, which was designated a transnational organized crime group by the United States in November 2015, facilitates illicit money movement between, among others, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), United States, UK, Canada, and Australia.” “There is a substantial demand for money laundering and illicit financial services due to the country’s black market economy and challenging security environment,” the report added.
In 2007 and 2008 alone, Khanani's company Khanani and Kalia's official banking records showed the company handled $2.3 billion, according to the Australian Federal Police. David Stewart, an assistant commissioner of Australian Police, said the Khanani's hawala-based operation was "turning over between 14 and 16 billion US dollars annually".
In 2008, Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) alleged that Khanani's company had illegally siphoned $US10 billion out of Pakistan. But few among the ruling politicians seemed to want to see the case proceed. "For fear of their own identities being revealed," Dawn newspaper columnist Khurram Husain said, "a very wide spectrum of very powerful interests mobilized in order to try and protect these [KKI] people."
In 2010, a critical affidavit omitted the names of the very KKI directors who had been originally arraigned, according to ABC News. A new national financial crimes statute was introduced by the ruling Pakistan People's Party which was so full of holes that a senior FIA official complained publicly it was "drafted by a money-launderer". In 2012, a specially convened banking court acquitted the eight company officials, and in 2013, Altaf Khanani was also exonerated by the District and Sessions Court in Karachi.
In 2016, Pakistan's then Home Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan accused the Pakistan People's Party of being hand-in-glove with Khanani. He said: “During the tenure of the previous government, PPP officials had massively laundered money with the help of one of the biggest money changers, Khanani and Kalia, and later destroyed the evidence".
“Billions of rupees had been laundered by the currency dealer in connivance with people in the then government. On the direction of ‘these people’ the record had been destroyed and now I am looking for this record,” Nisar added.
In its 2018 annual assessment of serious and organized crime, the British National Crime Agency named Pakistan among the top 3 sources of money laundering. It said: “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."
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