Islamabad - In the absence of an effectual anti-money laundering framework, Pakistan continues to be a hub of money laundering activities with an individual having won 135 times on the country’s prize bond scheme in a short period of 29 weeks (7 months), The Nation has learnt on good authority.

Enquiries have shown that the ‘lucky man’ did get paid out by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) for the prize bonds and that these bonds were genuine. However, the high frequency of the claimed winnings gives strength to the notion that he has not genuinely won on the prize bond scheme but purchased the winning bond tickets from prize bond agents/dealers sitting every city in the country.

According to the sources, the defendants have pleaded guilty at a UK court regarding money laundering OFFENCES. In effect, he has admitted that he did not win on the Pakistan prize bond scheme as a genuine participant, the sources added.

“Kashaf Khan and Malik Abdullah Farooq, the two Pakistani born British nationals transferred funds abroad and used a large amount of cash to buy an expensive property in the UK and are facing investigations over there,” highly reliable sources told The Nation.

This cash was withdrawn from a UK bank account. The individuals were asked where the cash in the UK bank account came from and they claimed that it is the proceeds of winning many times on Pakistan prize bonds. The UK authorities were surprised as to how an individual can win on a prize bond scheme so many times in a short period of 7 months.

National Crime Agency (NCA), Birmingham (UK), which is investigating the case, believes that the suspect used criminal money to purchase prize bonds that are already known to have won from prize bond agents in Pakistan, the sources said. The defendants Kashaf Khan and Malik Abdullah Farooq are charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. According to the NCA, the claim of winning the scheme 135 times in a 29 week period is quite unbelievable. Police believe that they have not genuinely won on the prize bond scheme but have purchased the winning bond tickets from prize bond agents/dealers in Pakistan.

Their claim is based partly on the high frequency of the claimed winnings, the sources added. As the lucky man was paid out by the SBP frequently, no Pakistani agency took notice of the same instead it was UK’s National Crime Agency which started investigations after two Pakistani born British individuals transferred huge funds to purchase an expensive property in the UK, said the sources.

The saga has also brought Pakistan’s prize bond system into question as the UK authorities believe that prize bond agents/dealers exist everywhere in Pakistan and that money launders may use the prize bond system to ‘whiten black money’.

After the parliament passed a piece of legislation in 2012, it is now illegal in Pakistan to sell or promote to sell prize bonds unless authorized by the federal government. But the ground situation continues to provide safe haven for money launderers. The individuals with ‘looted money’ are laundering illegal funds through prize bonds and the existing anti-money laundering framework failed to deliver. This has given rise to a thriving money-laundering service in Pakistan.

The officials in the Central Directorate of National Savings (CDNS) told The Nation on condition of anonymity that they don’t disclose the name of the winning prize bond holder due to security and other reasons. “It is a private matter and CDNS usually does not disclose the identity of the winning prize bond holder”, they said. They said that the government had in 2012 passed a law to restrict sale and purchase of the prize bonds and under the new law, only designated branches of the directorate can offer prize bond tickets.