LAHORE: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has served a legal notice to Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB) chairman Mian Muhammad Mansha and his CEO Imran Maqbool in the Rs25 billion money launder case against PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shahbaz.
The agency has also warned the top management of MCB to avoid their alleged undue influence on the ongoing investigations otherwise strict actions will be taken.
Head of sugar inquiry team and Director FIA Lahore Zone-1, DIG Dr Muhammad Rizwan has sent the legal notice, a copy of which is available with Bol News. The notice has been served under section 25 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010.
The FIA is investigating a case of organised mega-money laundering that was done through fictitious bank accounts opened and operated from 2008 till 2018 in the name of peons and various low-wage employees of Ramzan Sugar Mills Ltd (RSML).
According to FIA’s notice, those account-holders have already disclosed during the investigation that the accounts were being operated to conceal ‘secret transactions’ for the PEP family.
It is understood that opening and operations of bank accounts linked to any business owned by the PEP family require enhanced due diligence as per SBP’s Prudential Regulations.
“During investigations, the fictitious ID account-holders (RSML peons and low-wage employees) and relevant branch-managers/bank officials frankly admitted that these criminal acts were being done/acquiesced under the overwhelming pressure and influence (read duress) of the Sharif family and the MCB management,” read the notice.
According to the notice, the bank officials were asked to record their disclosures before the competent courts so it could be determined that the said disclosures were voluntary.
However, it added, digital evidence seized from MCB VP Asim Khan Suri and EVP Azhar Mehmood showed that they had started adversely influencing the relevant bank officials in the money laundering case.
FIA claimed in its legal notice that both the accused had issued instructions to relevant bank officials to conceal and suppress the “facts”. The notice added that the digital evidence revealed that the directions were issued to screen the actual beneficiaries — the Sharif family — from legal consequences.
“Relevant branch-managers/bank officials (under-inquiry) have expressed their inability to make true and full disclosures, as if they disclose full facts to the court, they face the risk of being proceeded against retrospectively (by MCB) and in that case FIA or any court will not be able to help them in this regard (corroborated by digital evidence),” read the notice.
The FI in the notice also alleged that the Suri has pushed the bank officials to not share the evidence with the knowledge and blessings of the top management of MCB.
It may be noted that FIA has arrested Suri on Sunday under the AMLA for allegedly creating hurdles in the investigations and pressurizing the witnesses. Similarly, arrest warrants of accused Azhar Mahmood have also been sought.
So far, FIA has presented a list of 26 bankers, 13 of those belonging to MCB, as witnesses against the Sharif family in the money laundering case. Six of those bankers have already recorded their statements under section 164 of the PPC. The remaining will record their statements on September 23.
According to FIA, section 25 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010 stipulates that all financial institutions (banks) are duty-bound to assist the FIA in anti-money laundering investigations and any willful defiance/ misconduct, to frustrate it, is culpable under the law.
The FIA has further advised Mian Mansha and Imran Maqbool to immediately disconnect MCB’s top management from being a part of any harassment of bank officials.
“Desist from taking any adverse action in undue haste, which leads to removal, resignation, dispersing, involuntary leave or obstruction in any form in the discharge of duties etc of/by the aforementioned MCB functionaries. It is pertinent to record here that, until date, MCB never raised any STR during the operation of these fictitious ID bank accounts (2008 to 2018) and any retrospective action now may reflect malice.”
The FIA further advised the MCB chairman and CEO to desist from disappearing any crucial evidence in any manner. Furthermore, the agency has asked the MCB to circulate fresh and clear e-mail instructions to the bank officials to assist the law enforcement agency in anti-money laundering investigation.