‘Moonis Elahi Likely To Be Declared Proclaimed Offender In Money Laundering Case’

‘Moonis Elahi Likely To Be Declared Proclaimed Offender In Money Laundering Case’
Former federal minister Moonis Elahi didn’t show up and failed to appear before the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Circle of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in a money laundering inquiry initiated against him on Monday, and neither his legal counsel nor he submitted any reply, The Friday Times (TFT) has learned.

It is pertinent to mention that on May 18, FIA issued a call-up notice for attendance under Section 160 of the CrPc in inquiry number 66/2023 of FIA AML-Circle Lahore to Moonis and asked him to appear before inquiry officer Fakhar Abbas on Monday at 11 a.m. in person at the FIA Lahore office, but he neither appeared himself nor his legal counsel submitted any reply.

In the call-up notice, FIA stated that the said inquiry is under probe in this agency against Amir Sohail, having CNIC 34403-8357326-1, who is the son of Nazir Ahmad and a resident of Chak Matha, Dakhana Khas, Tehsil Phalia, and Mandi Bahuddin, on the allegations of hawala/hundi and money laundering.

Amir Sohail deposited Rs 52.5 million into Moonis account

A senior official at FIA confirmed to TFT that, as per the information and records available with FIA, it has come to the fore that Moonis is cognizant of the facts of the ongoing probe.

He maintained that during the probe, it further transpired that Amir Sohail (the prime accused) deposited or credited cash amounts totaling Rs 52.5 million in Moonis bank accounts maintained at different banks without any plausible reason or justification through eight credit entries in 2021 and 2022.

Amir Sohail also withdrew Rs80.9 million from Moonis account via 15 cash withdrawals

A senior official further maintained that it is also pertinent to mention that Amir Sohail also withdrew a huge amount of Rs 80.9 million via cash withdrawals from Mooni's different bank accounts during a short span of time.

Details of deposits to Moonis Account

A senior official told TFT that on September 1, 2021, Amir Sohail deposited Rs 3.395 million to Moonis account number 0102319375.

On October 13, 2021, he submitted Rs 4.276 million to Moonis account number 0102319375. On October 28, 2021, Amir Sohail again submitted GBP 35,000 to Moonis account number 50447000121610, which was equivalent to Rs 8.295 million.

On November 17, 2021, he submitted Rs 8 million to his account number 50447000121952. On November 29, 2021, he again submitted Euro 40,000 to Moonis account number 50447000128610, equivalent to Rs 7.942 million.

Amir submitted Euro 80,000 to Moonis account 50447000128610 on December 3, 2021, equivalent to Rs 15.967 million.

In 2022, Amir submitted Euros 13,000 to Moonis account number 1007639853, which was equivalent to Rs 2.578 million, and on November 16, he deposited Euros 9,000 to Moonis account, which was equivalent to Rs 2.083 million.

In its call-up notice, the FIA had asked the former federal minister to appear in person, answer questions, and explain issues pertaining to the probe truthfully and honestly. "You are further required to bring your original CNIC and any other documentary evidence in support of your claim pertaining to the above transactions," the call-up notice reads.

The investigation officer further stated that a failure to comply with this legal notice may entail that you have nothing to say in your defense and that legal action based on the evidence available on record will be initiated against you.

How will the FIA proceed?

Speaking to TFT, a senior FIA official said that we will issue another notice to him, and if he doesn’t show up again, then the presumption is that after two notices, he has nothing to say.

"Maybe his lawyers will submit a reply after the second notice. So, we will wait and see whether he will submit a reply or not, and after that, we will be in a position to take some action," he concluded.

What are the options for the FIA?

When contacted, Advocate High Court and an expert on AML laws, Abdul Rauf Shakoori, told TFT that FIA authorities under Section 160 of the CrPc sent routine notice to figure out the source and purpose of the transactions being performed between Amir Sohail (the prime accused) and Moonis Elahi.

"If Moonis Elahi preferred not to appear before the court by himself or through a legal representative, the agency has so many options to proceed against him and ensure his attendance," Shakoori noted.

He maintained that they might issue another notice, and on non-compliance with that notice, they will follow the procedure prescribed under Section 114 for issuing summonses and warrants, including Sections 190 and 204 of the Crpc.

Court may declare Moonis proclaimed offender

The AML law expert was of the opinion that the court can finally declare him a proclaimed offender under Section 87 and order attachment of his property under Section 88 of the CrPc.

"Finally, the court will record evidence under Article 512 in the absence of the accused to make sure that there is no immediate prospect of arresting the accused; the court will issue his perpetual warrants of arrest," he noted.

Federal government can also cancel Moonis identity or travel documents

Shakoori stated that the federal government also has the authority to cancel his identity or travel documents under the NADRA ordinance.

Govt may approach Interpol to bring him back

The AML law expert further apprised that the government can approach the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) with the order of the court as well as solid proof of money laundering.

"The government can also settle the matter with the Spanish authorities through mutual legal assistance and seek their cooperation against Moonis Elahi," Shakoori said, as it is widely believed that Moonis is in Spain.

He pointed out that it is interesting to mention that Spain does not recognize banking or tax secrecy as a barrier to the request for assets recovery, and the national police force, which is known as an operative group that belongs to the first section of the money laundering squad, is very active in answering the request transmitted for the recovery of the assets.

For Shakoori, it depends on the evidence of money laundering produced by the Pakistani authorities before the Spanish law enforcement as well as the court to initiate proceedings against Moonis Elahi for his involvement in corrupt practices as well as the movement of that money to Spain.

"Article 127 of the Spanish Criminal Code gives the judge the power to order the confiscation of the effects of the crimes, goods, or proceeds of the crimes, irrespective of their transformation process," he stated.

Shakoori recalled that Spain, being a part of the European Union, is under obligation to follow other laws and council framework decisions regarding the return of assets, as well as the provision of information and the return of the individuals named in the corrupt practices and prosecuted in the Pakistan courts.

Moonis is out of country and case is fictitious

Speaking to TFT, Moonis Elahi’s close friend and legal counsel, Amir Saeed Rawn, told TFT that it is fictitious as all of Moonis's income and assets are declared in his tax returns. "Moonis is out of the country, and we don’t have to submit any reply," Rawn said while adding that all such call-up notices and cases are nothing but political victimization.

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy. He also hosts the Hassan Naqvi Show on Naya Daur.