Tag: India

Why India and Pakistan are wrangling over money launderer Altaf Khanani

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For decades, Khanani, one of the world’s most-wanted money launderers, had maintained business ties with groups like al-Qaida. He could now prove to be damaging for Pakistan’s efforts to get out of a terror funding list.

Altaf Khanani was considered one of the world’s most-wanted money launderers. The Pakistani fraudster was involved in the illicit international movement of money between countries like Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, the US, the UK, Canada and Australia. His organization also moved money for drug cartels and terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and al-Qaida.

After a massive hunt involving five nations, Khanani was arrested in Panama in September 2015 by the US Drug Enforcement Administration. He was later sent to the US, where a court sentenced him to 68 months in prison.

Khanani was released from prison on July 13, but there isn’t much information about his current location.

A Pakistani Interior Ministry official told DW that Khanani’s network is no longer active. “Khanani & Kalia International (KKI) and his money-laundering organization were banned by the Pakistani government,” the official said.

Despite Islamabad’s measures against the notorious money launderer, Khanani can still prove to be damaging for his home country. The United Nations Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) virtual plenary  is likely to keep Pakistan on its “grey list” as most countries in the group believe that Islamabad has not fulfilled its obligations to curb money laundering and terror financing from its soil.

The Paris-based intergovernmental body was established in 1989 to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. Being “blacklisted” by the 37-nation bloc could have serious implications for Pakistan’s already fragile economy, as possible sanctions would not allow the country to seek the financial loans it needs on a regular basis.

Damning FinCEN revelations

Recently, both Khanani’s network and Pakistan featured prominently in the so-called FinCEN Files, a probe led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). More than 400 journalists spent 16 months investigating confidential US Treasury documents shared by BuzzFeed News. The investigation, which involved leaked documents from 1999 to 2017, has revealed the role of global banks in large-scale money laundering.

According to documents contained in the FinCEN Files, Khanani and his organization reportedly moved an estimated $14 billion (€11.81 billion) to $16 billion annually for drug cartels and terrorist organizations like al-Qaida, Hezbollah and the Taliban.

 According to the Indian Express newspaper, Khanani has also been a key financier for fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, an Indian national.

Khanani has been on the radar of Indian intelligence agencies for his relationship with Ibrahim, who faces terrorism charges in India for his involvement in the 1993 Mumbai serial bombings, which killed 257 people and injured over 1,400. New Delhi accuses Islamabad of harboring him, a claim that Pakistani authorities have repeatedly denied.

 ”Khanani, the head of the Khanani MLO, and Al Zarooni Exchange have been involved in the movement of funds for the Taliban. Khanani is known to have had relationships with Lashkar-e-Taiba, Dawood Ibrahim, al-Qaida, and Jaish-e-Mohammed,” the US Department of the Treasury said in a press statement in November 2015.

In 2016, the UAE’s Central Bank revoked the licence of local money exchange firm Al Zarooni Exchange due to anti-money laundering compliance violations. The move came after the US Treasury said it had imposed sanctions on the Altaf Khanani Money Laundering Organization and its Dubai-based supporter, the Al Zarooni Exchange, for laundering money for criminals and political extremists.

“The Khanani Money Laundering Organization exploits its relationships with financial institutions to funnel billions of dollars across the globe on behalf of terrorists, drug traffickers, and criminal organizations,” then US Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam J. Szubin said in a statement at the time.

Can Khanani and FinCEN Files create problems for Pakistan?
Some experts are of the view that Khanani’s recent mention in the FinCEN Files is unlikely to impact the FATF’s decision on Pakistan. “Khanani used a global network of shell companies, which means that it is unlikely that Pakistan will be dragged into it,” Graham Barrow, an anti-money laundering expert, told DW.

The South Asian country was put on the grey list in 2018 for the second time. In February, the FATF kept Pakistan in its grey list, which forced Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government in August to imposed strict financial sanctions on 88 terrorist outfits and their leaders, including Jamaat ud-Dawa’s (JuD) head, Hafiz Saeed, and Jaish-e-Mohammed’s (JeM) Masood Azhar. For the first time, the authorities also imposed sanctions on the Afghan Taliban.

But Barrow believes that Islamabad needs to clear its position on Khanani’s money laundering and terror financing to militant groups. “All parties interested in putting a stop to global money laundering and terrorism financing would expect Pakistan to ensure they have sufficient resources devoted to monitoring the activities of anyone suspected of having been, or still being involved in any of these activities. This would clearly be true in Khanani’s case,” Barrow added.

 US officials have long accused Pakistan of supporting militant Islamist groups to use them as proxies to destabilize Afghanistan. Islamabad denies these allegations and points to its role as a “facilitator” in the ongoing Afghan peace talks in Doha, Qatar.

“The Khanani development has no direct link to our ongoing engagement with the FATF review,” Zahid Hafeez, a spokesman at Pakistan’s Foreign Office, told DW.

Osama Malik, an international economic law expert in Islamabad, told DW: “While the annual figure of $14 to $16 billion laundered by the Khanani network is startling, it was generated between 1999 and 2017. Unless there is something to indicate that Pakistan has shown an unwillingness or inability to deal with such suspicious transactions after being greylisted, FinCEN leaks should not adversely affect Pakistan’s chances at FATF.”

“However, the fact that known companies operated by Khanani, who is a convicted money launderer, held business transactions with reputable financial institutions such as Deutsche Bank, should indeed be a serious source of concern for Pakistan, the UAE and Germany,” he added.

Spotlight on Indian banks

In India, the revelations have once again turned the spotlight on Khanani and some of its banks. According to FinCEN Files, the Dubai branch of the Bank of Baroda, an Indian multinational bank, was being used by Mazaka General Trading LLC — one of the entities listed in 2016 by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for supporting Khanani’s money-laundering organization — for transactions with another trading company, the Rangoli International Pvt. Limited, according to the Indian Express.

The FinCEN Files mention some 70 transactions listed for Rangoli International, mostly with the UAE-based firms. Several Indian banks, including the Punjab National Bank, the Central Bank of India, the Oriental Bank of Commerce, the Corporation Bank, the Vijaya Bank and the Bank of Maharashtra, were reportedly used to move the money from these transactions.

“It is difficult to detect which funds come for terrorism purposes and which organizations are connected to terror financing groups. In this case, as per reports, Khanani was arrested by the US drug enforcement agency, which shared relevant information with India,” said Karnal Singh, a former director of Enforcement Directorate, an Indian law enforcement agency responsible for tackling economic and financial crimes. 

“We cannot say that all transactions that take place through banking channels are suspicious. If the suspicious transaction report is generated by banks, or if somebody comes to an adverse notice, only then we can start investigating and collecting intelligence,” Singh told DW.

But some experts believe that financial institutions get carried away because of the scale of the business being generated.

“One of the possibilities as to why Khanani was able to operate under the radar for so long could be that he was able to get past that [bank] scrutiny,” Vivek Chadha, a retired Indian colonel and a research fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, told DW.

Pakistan, on the other hand, has its own concerns about the alleged Indian money laundering nexus.

“The involvement of Indian banks in money laundering has been widely reported in media after the FinCEN revelations. FATF should now look into this issue when it carries out India’s evaluation next year,” Pakistani Foreign Office’s spokesman Hafeez told DW.

India’s case against Pakistan
Indian authorities have been lobbying to put Pakistan on the FATF money laundering “blacklist.” Indian officials believe that the revelations about Khanani’s operations in the FinCEN Files could strengthen their case against Pakistan.

“This information will certainly help because it indicates that UN [Security Council's] resolutions 1267 and 1373 [related to terrorism] are not being followed thoroughly by Pakistan,” Singh told DW.

Security analyst Chadha believes that the Khanani revelations in the FinCEN Files could be useful for the FATF committee.

“These are important inputs for FATF to try and understand as to what more can be done to make its systems more stringent and more effective against countries and organizations that have been able to somehow subvert the existing systems. The present system of greylisting is probably not sufficient. There is a very wide gap between the grey list and the blacklist,” Chadha said.

Source- dw.com

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5,000 Australians to fly home in 6 months, 14 days paid quarantine in Darwin, those in UK get first preference

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PM Sco Mo speaking in Cairns on 16 Oct 2020.

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 16 October 2020: More than 5,000 Australians are expected to return home in the next six months on special commercial flights from UK, India, and South Africa. These are among the 29,000 Australians currently registered with DFAT wishing to return to Australia. The Australians return amid the unprecedented travel disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first two flights with Qantas will depart London on 22 October and New Delhi on 26 October. Each flight will carry 175 passengers. As more quarantine facility space has become available with fewer domestic travelers needing to quarantine, we have been working with the Northern Territory Government so Australian passengers from overseas can undertake their 14 days’ quarantine on return at the Howard Springs facility, Northern Territory, 25 kilometers south of Darwin.

According to abc.net.au the cost from the UK will be around $ 2,000 and from India a little less. People quarantined at Howard Springs will pay $ 2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families.

“Once people have completed their quarantine and tested negative for the virus they’ll be allowed to fly to their home state where, depending on the border rules, they may have to quarantine again, ” says abc.net.au.

“The Government is underwriting the cost of the flights, and airfares will be available at commercial rates to passengers, with loans through DFAT available to those who need assistance, ” says a media release from the Prime Minister’s office.

More details on the flights are available on smartraveller.gov.au and qantas.com

US Immigration groups slam decision to suspend H-1B, H-2B, H-4, J-1, and L-1 visas till December 31, 2020

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Photo=ACLU

By Peoples Dispatch

The decision of the US government to suspend a variety of immigration visas until the end of the year has been widely criticized by immigration rights organizations. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on June 22, Monday. The move effectively extends a previous 60-day visa ban imposed by the administration in April due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The executive order signed on Monday suspends any new applications for H-1B, H-2B, H-4, J-1, and L-1 visas until December 31, 2020, with a few exceptions under H-2B for those working in agriculture and seafood processing industries. Representatives from the administration have told the media that close to 525,000 jobs in the US will be cleared up for US citizens with the move.

The US is currently facing its biggest unemployment crisis since the Great Depression. Over 15 million workers have suffered job loss or work loss since February, and the unemployment rate is estimated to be anywhere between 13% to 17%. Of these, 6.3 million are deemed to have exited the labor market.

Officials in the Trump administration have been pushing for a blanket ban on immigration, claiming that it will prevent foreign competition in the labor market, and have suggested this as a means to deal with the massive job losses.

The move has been strongly opposed by the tech industry bosses, who depend on a foreign pool of professionals for much of their postings. The order will also put thousands of researchers and foreign students in a lurch, especially those under the study-abroad and work-abroad programs.

The order allows those with valid visas to continue to be in the US. However, immigration lawyers have pointed out the lack of clarity in the order, with insufficient details provided for those workers who are stranded abroad and whose visas are set to expire.

The National Immigration Forum has decried the order as an attempt to divide communities. “Extending and expanding a ban on immigrants does not address the challenges our nation faces as we begin the long recovery from COVID-19,” said Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the forum, in a statement released on Monday.

“Advancing the false narrative that immigrants are competitors only serves to undermine the trust and unity needed to recover quickly and effectively from the pandemic and its economic effects,” Noorani added.

Vintage wheels move in India’s Heritage Transport Museum

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By Chitwan Sharma*

NEW DELHI, 15 March 2020: About an hour’s drive from Delhi is the world heritage museum. Located at Tauru in the Gurgaon district of the state Haryana. HTM (Heritage Transport Museum) covers an area of around 90,000 sq feet.

This state of the art museum is very high tech and gives a modern feel. It is a multi-story museum that features exhibition galleries, mini auditorium, library, museum shop, and a restaurant facility.

Audiobooks with headphones are provided along with the tickets on the entrance and these audiobooks have thorough information about the whole museum. A documentary on the importance of different modes of transportation is also shown in the auditorium.

The founder and trustee Tarun Thakral spent nearly 20 years collecting vintage vehicles from different states of India. The museum includes a 1930 Royal Rail Saloon and a 1935 Buick series 90 limousine, a 1900 horse carriage and a 1946 Salsbury and many more. The oldest model in the museum is an 1780 bullock cart.

With the help of lithographs, photographs, postcards and transportation books, and vehicles, the museum tells us the vibrant and rich history of Indian transportation in a modern way.

*chitwan.sharma30@gmail.com)
Info- www.heritagetransportmuseum.org

EU-India trade: Call to include ‘strong’ human rights clause, suspension mechanism

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By Counterview

While recent reports on the European Union (EU) resolution on the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), quoting EU officials, seek to suggest that EU is “keener” on concluding trade and investments agreements with New Delhi than discussing Kashmir and the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), a closer look at the draft resolution, proposed to be taken up for discussion in March 2020, appears to point towards something totally different.

The resolution, while condemning India’s stance on Kashmir and CAA, “urges the EU and Member States to raise the controversial new citizenship legislation in their contacts and negotiations with their Indian partners, and insists that any EU trade agreement with India should include a strong human rights clause with an effective implementation and suspension mechanism.”

A vote on the resolution has been postponed following a decision by members of European Parliament (MEPs) at its plenary session in Brussels on January 29 to the March session because it was found necessary to wait for the legal process on CAA in India to conclude. The reason given was, the Supreme Court was looking into the matter, hence it would be better to vote on the resolution “when there is full clarity on the situation.”

Specifically underlining that the situation in Kashmir and CAA should be looked at against the backdrop of “trade negotiations… underway between the EU and India”, expresses what it calls “deep concern at the fact that India has created the legal grounds to strip millions of Muslims of the fundamental right of equal access to citizenship”, adding, EU is “concerned that the CAA could be used, along with the National Register of Citizens, to render many Muslim citizens stateless.”
The resolution says the Government of India is obliged, under the 1992 UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, “to protect the existence and identity of religious minorities within their territories and to adopt appropriate measures to ensure that this is achieved”, adding, “people belonging to minority groups, including religious minorities” should be allowed to “exercise their human rights without discrimination and in full equality before the law.”
“Strongly” condemning India’s “violation of these internationally recognized principles”, the resolution calls on the “Government and Parliament of India to demonstrate their expressed commitment to fully guaranteeing the protection of refugees and migrants, irrespective of their religion”, urging “the Indian authorities to engage constructively with the protestors and consider their demands to repeal the discriminatory CAA.”

The resolution declares “solidarity with the national strike held on January 7”, noting that “over 250 million workers have taken to the streets to protest for social security for all, against the privatization of public companies, and against the CAA”, even as condemning “the excessive force in the crackdown on protests.”

EU draft seeks prompt and impartial investigation into allegations of torture and ill-treatment of peaceful protestors
Insisting that “citizens have the right to protest”, it calls upon “the Government of India to establish a credible, independent investigation into allegations of excessive use of force and violence by law enforcement officials against demonstrators.”

It further calls upon the “Indian authorities to stop the criminalization of protests, to lift the disproportionate restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, to end the indiscriminate shutdowns and to ensure the protection of all human rights”, adding, it “condemns the torture and detention of minors and peaceful protestors and the imprisonment of those critical of the authorities.”

At the same time, the resolution calls upon the EU and Member States “to condemn all violence in the context of the ongoing protests against the CAA, including the alleged killing of protestors by law enforcement officials, and all incidents of excess use of force by the police, some of which have been verified by Amnesty International India.”

Asking the Indian authorities to “launch a prompt and impartial investigation into the allegations of torture and ill-treatment of peaceful protestors”, the resolution wants “the EU and its Member States to use all bilateral and multilateral meetings to urge the Indian authorities to open up to a constructive human rights dialogue and to end the crackdown on individuals and organizations working on human rights”.

Source- Counterview