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October 1, 2018

Money laundering case: FIA charge sheet on Farhan Junejo ambiguous

LONDON: The National Crime Agency (NCA) has arrested and released former Pakistan government official Farhan Junejo on the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) allegation that he laundered between Rs180-250 million from Pakistan but the charge sheet prepared by the FIA doesn’t appear to show how the money transferred to almost a dozen accounts was proceeds of crimes or corruption.

Farhan Junejo is under investigation by the NCA on Pakistan government’s request but he has not been charged by the police and the ultimate decision will be made by the Crime Prosecution Service (CPS), an independent charging body, but it appears that the evidence in its current format is ambiguous.

The case filed of the FIA is comprised of 85 pages but only around 10 pages provide key information about the transfer of money from Pakistan to at around four locations abroad. The most important is the chart where the FIA has shown 11 transactions of the whole family showing each and every intricate funds transfer including bank account numbers, passport details and addresses. The case file reveals that the FIR against Junejo was registered in 2013 and final challan was submitted in the court in 2017.

While the FIA has done a painstaking job in creating this money-trail chart of the Junejo family, it doesn’t mention how these transactions have any link or association with the funds of Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP).

As per the charge sheet, Farhan Junejo served as Director to Minister for Commerce from 2009 till 2012 under Makhdoom Ameen Faheem, who was then the Minister for Commerce in the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government for its 2008-13 tenure.

The FIA makes notes of at least 18 transactions which were made by Farhan Junejo and the members of his family through bank transfers from Pakistan to their own accounts in UK, America, Dubai and Switzerland.

As the law stands, sending money from one bank account to another between the connected parties cannot be considered as money laundering since it is permitted under Pakistani laws to send or receive funds in the account – unless it’s proved otherwise. The NCA will have to prove before the CPS that the money in questions are proceeds of corruption or have criminal origin.

The FIA wrote that there are “reasonable grounds to believe” that Farhan Junejo while serving as a government official “acquired and accumulated huge assets through corruption and corrupt practices and also committed offences of money laundering by sending proceeds of crime from Pakistan to Dubai and from there to his and the accounts of the members of his family. His and the members of his family’s offences are punishable u/s 161, 164, 165, 165-A , 109 PPC R/W 5(2) PCA-11 1947 and section 3/4 of Money Laundering Act”.

Reports have claimed that the members of Farhan Junejo’s family fled Pakistan after 2013 but a PPP government source in Sindh told that only Farhan Junejo worked in Pakistan till 2013 while all the members of his family have not lived in Pakistan since 2007. His wife is a British-born Pakistani and has never lived in Pakistan.

The News put questions to the State Minister for Accountability Shahzad Akbar for his version on the FIA’s charge sheet but the minister refused to comment. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s adviser on accountability Shahzad Akbar said: “It is an ongoing investigation and as per our agreement with our counterparts in UK we cannot confirm identity of any target in any ongoing investigations or comment on any individual case.”

On the day of Junejo’s arrest, the minister had stated during a television interview that the arrest was a result of cooperation between agencies of Pakistan and Britain. The minister had claimed that Farhan Junejo and his wife “are being charged”, “their assets have been seized” and “two vehicles have been recovered” but a police source has confirmed that the investigation is continuing and Junejo and his wife have not been charged.

He had also said without naming the arrested person: “The arrested persons couldn’t give explanation about the assets recovered from them, from Surrey. The arrested man was a government servant and escaped from here. The Surrey is the same place known here for its like with some of our famous people. I wish to explain that this £8 million worth property is his property only in Surrey. Besides this property there were two luxury cars that were also recovered from there. One car was of worth £100,000 which is equal to about Rs150,000,00. The model of these cars was Range rover and Rolls Royce respectively.”

The NCA arrested Junejo around two weeks ago on the basis of claims that the former aide of Makhdoom Amin Faheem allegedly laundered around Rs180 to 250 million out of Pakistani to his overseas accounts through “corruption and corrupt practices”.

According to English law, criminal confiscation and money laundering offences are inter-linked and money-laundering is the process by which criminal proceeds are sanitised to disguise their illicit origins.

Money laundering is defined as an act which constitutes an offence under section 327, 328 and 329 or a conspiracy or attempt to commit such an offence. Money laundering includes counselling, aiding or abetting or procuring.