UK ‘Prime Destination’ For Money Laundering From Pakistan: Report

Last year, the then Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had a figure of US$200Bln as a sum that Pakistani citizens have stashed away in the Swiss bank. An estimated 4 to 5 times this figure is speculated to be held as assets by Pakistanis abroad– both lawfully and through inappropriate means including lacuna in laws enacted from time-to-time since early 90s.

May 16, 2018 (DESPARDES/PKONWEB) — The National Crime Agency (NCA) of UK has said the country remains a “prime destination” for money laundering from Russia, Nigeria and Pakistan.

In its fifth analysis of serious and organized crime threats in the UK, the NCA said it had prepared a report drawing intelligence from UK law enforcement agencies, government departments, the intelligence community and the private and voluntary sectors.

“Money laundering potentially running to hundreds of billions of pounds impacts the UK annually, with a significant threat being posed by the criminal exploitation of accounting and legal professionals involved with trust and company provision,” the report said.

“The UK is a prime destination for corrupt foreign Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) to launder the proceeds of corruption, particularly those from Russia, Nigeria and Pakistan,” it added.

It’s understood that hundreds of Pakistanis have invested money in the UK, unknown to authorities in Pakistan. Including many  belonging to the business elite, leaders from almost every major political party has invested monies across the world including the UK — “the pace increased after the passage of Protection of Economic Reforms Act 1992 by the parliament,” say several observers.

When a new law called the Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO) was introduced earlier this year, reports appeared that appeared it will apply to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his sons Hasan and Hussain Nawaz but UK authorities said the UWO will apply only to PEPs who are not British nationals. While Hasan Nawaz, his family and Hussain Nawaz carry British nationalities, Nawaz Sharif does not and is considered a PEP.

The UWO allows the UK authorities to freeze and recover property if individuals cannot explain why they own assets worth more than their income and show they have acquired them legally is designed as a ‘forward looking’ law which will primarily deal with cases that arise in the future, rather than going back beyond six years, the Geo News reports citing leading law experts in UK.

Transparency International (TI), an INGO, has called for a probe into five controversial properties in the United Kingdom, including Sharif’s Avenfield flats in London, a report appearing in daily newspaper Pakistan Today in February said.

The TI reportedly incorporated Sharif’s London properties in the list of controversial properties, which has been handed over to the UK law enforcement agencies. Most of these properties are said to be owned and managed by offshore companies.

Related Article: ‘Black Economy Generating Undeclared Assets Home and Abroad’

According to a press release issued then by the INGO cited by the daily paper, the UK law enforcement agencies have been called for an immediate investigation into the source of money to purchase the controversial properties under the UWO law.

Geo News reports that the UWO is a forward looking law, which will primarily deal with cases that arise in the future, rather than going back beyond six years. The media outlet cited some “leading law experts in UK”.

Last year, the then Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had a figure of US$200 billion as an estimated sum that Pakistani citizens have stashed away in Swiss bank accounts. An estimated 4 to 5 times this figure is speculated to be held as assets by Pakistanis abroad– both lawfully and through inappropriate means including lacuna in laws enacted from time-to-time since early 90s.

The UWOs are seen as investigative tools in the UK to try and help tackle the perception that the UK is a place where money-laundering takes place.

The NCA report also discusses organized crime syndicates usage of digital technology and the dark web, pointing out that “UK cyber crime continues to rise in scale and complexity but under-reporting of data breaches continues to erode our ability to make robust assessments of the scale and cost of network intrusions,” the UK authorities admitted.

“There is evidence that the scale and complexity of organized crime continues to grow despite notable operational successes in the UK,” the report said.

NCA Director General Lynne Owens remarked that this year’s assessment shows that organized crime groups (OCGs) are exploiting digital technology, for instance using encryption to communicate, and dark web market places to aid their activities.

“Criminals are continuing to develop international connections to increase the reach of their activity, and to maximize profits. We are also seeing ever-increasing crossover between crime threats, with finance at the heart of this,” it said.

“Organized criminals involved in smuggling of people or firearms also supply drugs, and the relationship between organized immigration crime and modern slavery is becoming more apparent.”

The NCA report said that criminal groups seek to make as much money as possible from the suffering and exploitation of others, and continue to put the public at risk.

“The increasing sophistication of crime groups, coupled with the changing nature of their geographical reach, demonstrates more than ever the requirement for an increasingly coordinated response.

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