The Federal Investigation Agency has served a legal notice to the MCB Bank Limited, advising the bank to cooperate with the FIA investigation over a case of organised mega money laundering case while accusing that the Directors of Ramzan Sugar Mill Limited and the Shahbaz Sharif family were the main beneficiaries of these ‘secret transactions’.
In a legal notice served – under section 25 Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010 R/W Section 201 PPC ETC – to the Chairman MCB Bank Ltd. Mian Muhammad Mansha and President MCB Bank Ltd. Imran Maqbool, In the legal notice, a copy of which is available with the correspondent.pk, FIA Punjab said that the investigation pursuant to the Sugar Inquiry Commission’s Report 2020 has so far detected the money laundering of about Rs 25 billion that was “placed and layered through fictitious ID bank accounts opened and operated in the name of peons and several low-wage employees of Ramzan Sugar Mills” between 2008 and 2018 to conceal these transactions from sources extraneous to sugar business.
The notice, “It is understood that the opening and operations of bank accounts linked to any business owned by PEP (Politically Exposed Person) family requires enhanced due diligence as per SBP’s (State Bank of Pakistan) Prudential Regulations. Nevertheless. Rs 8.4 billion (33%) of the aforementioned turnover, including split & structured transactions from parties totally unrelated to sugar business (extraneous sources) took place in various branches of MCB in Lahore and Chiniot.”
The legal notice said that during the course of the investigation, the fictitious ID holders and relevant branch managers and bank officials of the MCB Bank were adamant that these criminal activities were carried under duress resulting from the Sharif family exercising its considerable influence and under instructions from the MCB’s top management. It said that the relevant testimonies were later recorded in competent courts to ascertain the voluntary nature of their disclosures.
The notice named MCB Bank vice president and head of compliance Asim Suri and MCB Group Head Azhar Mehmood for “adversely influencing the relevant MCB branch managers” to “conceal and suppress the facts”. It said that the digital evidence seized from Suri and Mehmood revealed that both officials instructed the branch managers to protect and screen the Sharif family from legal consequences. The notice said that the FIA witnesses are unable to record full disclosures as they will face respective action from their parent organisation MCB and neither FIA nor any court will be able to help them.
The notice said that all these illegal activities were “initiated with the knowledge and blessings of the top-management of the MCB”, which includes business tycoon and Chairman MCB Bank Mian Muhammad Mansha. FIA said that his involvement will be evaluated during the course of the investigation.
The legal notice – addressed to Mansha and MCB President Maqbool – warned the MCB Bank that, like all financial institutions, MCB was duty-bound to assist the FIA in “anti-money laundering investigations and any wilful defiance/misconduct, to frustrate it, is culpable under the law”. The notice also urged the organisation to instruct all relevant branch managers to assist FIA in the anti-money laundering investigation.
The legal notice ordered MCB to stop contacting and harassing the FIA’s witnesses and direct or indirect threats of retrospective actions. The notice also urged MCB to take any action that may lead “to removal, resignation, dispersing, involuntary leave, or obstruction in any form in the discharge of duties etc. of by the aforementioned MCB functionaries”. The notice said that any such action may reflect malice. The notice also urged the organisation to refrain from causing the disappearance of any crucial evidence.
The notice urged MCB to report any other hidden or secret fictitious ID accounts that were opened and operated to benefit the accused top management and directors of Ramzan Sugar Mills and its associated companies. FIA said that in case of failure to comply and cooperate with the investigations and aforementioned advisements will be seen as complicity to the crimes committed by the accused Sharif family.