ISLAMABAD, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- Over 100 billion rupees (about 0.77 billion U.S. dollars) have been laundered out of Pakistan through 107 fake bank accounts, a joint investigation team of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has informed the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
A three-member bench of the country's top court headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar resumed a hearing of a case regarding an investigation into money-laundering and fake bank accounts on Monday.
Transactions of 47 billion rupees (about 0.36 billion U.S. dollars) have been done through fake bank accounts and 54 billion rupees (about 0.41 billion U.S. dollars) were transferred through the fictitious accounts of 36 companies, Ahsaan Sadiq, head of the investigation team, while submitting the report, told the bench.
"Some 600 companies and individuals are associated with the scam. We are trying to reach the real beneficiary of these fake accounts," Sadiq said, adding that "the matter is far more complex than fake accounts."
He said billions of rupees were laundered through fake accounts in the name of individuals like rickshaw drivers and vendors who do not know about the existence of accounts in their names. They are tracing and investigating over 500 such bank accounts across the country, the official added.
One such account holder, Muhammad Rasheed, a poor rickshaw driver and resident of the country's southern port city of Karachi, has been summoned by the investigation team recently as transactions of 3 billion rupees (about 2.3 million U.S. dollars) had been made in his name from a private bank account.
"I was completely unaware of the transactions made through my account and got to know about it after officials of the FIA summoned me. We live in a rented place in a poor locality of the city. I work hard to make both ends meet. I can not even imagine such a big amount," he told local media after recording his statement with the officials recently.
The FIA on Tuesday also claimed that the mastermind behind the fake bank accounts that were used to launder over the 0.77 billion U.S. dollars out of the country has been arrested. The mastermind, Aslam Masood, was arrested by the Interpol from Saudi Arabia, local TV channel Geo News quoted sources within the FIA.
Currently, the investigation team of FIA has been investigating 32 people in the case, and on its request the Pakistani Interior Ministry has barred 95 individuals suspected to be involved in the case from leaving the country.
These developments came at a time when Pakistan is struggling to get out of the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Pakistan was formally added to the grey list in June over its non-compliance with international best practices against money laundering and counter-terror financing.
Economic analysts in the country believe that the loopholes in the banking system have a lot to do with the action taken by FATF.
Earlier in September, Pakistan's Finance Minister Asad Umar told the Senate that the government is committed to addressing the deficiencies in anti-money laundering system.
"The government is taking steps to overcome the deficiencies identified by the FATF," said the minister, adding that the National Executive Committee will review the action plan in order to handle the deficiencies related to currency smuggling and alleged terror financing by banned outfits in Pakistan.