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FIA team raids two money changers involved in dollar hoarding

FIA team raids two money changers involved in dollar hoarding

ISLAMABAD: Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) team on Thursday raided two offices operated by currency exchange companies in Islamabad’s F-10 Markaz and Blue Area as part of a wider crackdown against dollar hoarding and money laundering.

The teams seized records, foreign currency and millions of rupees in cash from the two outlets as they had been operating without a license, FIA Director Fakhar Sultan said.

The funds seized from the Blue Area exchange included 6,960 Saudi riyals, 1,000 euros, 2,640 pounds sterling, 3,100 Australian dollars, $5,030, 6,335 Emirati dirhams, 100 Qatari riyals, 401 Chinese Yuan and Rs2,483,700. A sum of Rs4.3 million was also seized from the F-10 Markaz exchange. Criminal proceedings have been initiated against the currency dealership owners, Sultan said.

The raid is just the latest in a series of similar actions targeting currency changers and illicit money transfer services and is aimed at curbing money laundering and related activities. On April 12, the FIA had seized Rs420m rupees form hundi and hawala dealers in Karachi.

“Another major exchange company, similar to Khanani and Kalia International (KKI), is operating out of Dubai,” an FIA official had said at the time, adding that the owner of the said company goes by his alias, ‘Rangila’.

It is pertinent to mention here that the now-defunct KKI was one of the largest and most sophisticated exchange companies in Pakistan. It infamously ran a parallel money transfer system for purposes of transferring money out of the country through illegal hundi/hawala channels.

On April 10, the FIA had arrested one suspect in Rawalpindi and seized foreign currency worth a million rupees and more than Rs4m. An FIR was registered against the money changer and an investigation launched. In a similar crackdown the same day, an FIA team had also impounded a vehicle from Peshawar Road in Rawalpindi and recovered foreign currency worth Rs2.4 million from it.

On April 7, the FIA had seized currency worth Rs40m and arrested three people in Lahore. Six teams were constituted by the FIA, which carried out raids simultaneously at all money exchanges in Lahore and inspected their records.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had announced earlier this month on Twitter that “a full-fledged operation against dollar hoarding and speculative currency trade” would be launched by the FIA, as signs of panic started appearing in foreign currency markets after the dollar touched Rs148 in open trading earlier this month.

A State Bank spokesperson had then told Dawn that there was no law to arrest any person for buying dollars or keeping foreign exchange as investment, but if any institution was found involved in currency hoarding to manipulate the exchange rate, it could be investigated.

“We have a mechanism with FIA to probe a case if there is any violation of banking laws and the State Bank can ask FIA to investigate such violations,” he had added.