KARACHI: Billions of dollars are laundered out of Pakistan every year and many international and national companies and individuals are involved in it. Maersk, which controls the shipping line business in the country, with its managing director Aruna Hussain, is one of the companies, which make illegal profits, flout laws, evade taxes and send the ill-gotten money abroad through illegal channels, sources say.
They say Pakistan is often blamed for terror financing and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has placed it on its “grey list” for money laundering, which is committed mostly by international companies, like Maersk, which is often accused of flouting the rules to deprive importers of billions of rupees, make illegal profits and evade taxes. Experts say companies, like Maersk, and individuals have created loopholes and flaws in Pakistan’s institutions to launder money abroad. In return, Pakistan is blamed for financing terror by international institutions, while it is international companies and criminals that make money through illegal channels and send it abroad through illegal means. The situation is adding to poverty in Pakistan as taxpayers’ money is illegally smuggled out.
According to a recent British government report, dirty money continues to flow from Pakistan into the UK. The UK Treasury and Home Office “National risk assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing 2020” report says corrupt foreign elites continue to be attracted to the UK to disguise their corruption proceeds. On Pakistan, the report says, the UK continues to have close economic links to Pakistan, including significant remittance flows between both jurisdictions, which according to estimates equated to approximately $1.7 billion in 2017. “The economic and cultural ties also enable and disguise illicit funds to be transferred between the UK and Pakistan, including through illegal informal value transfers,” it noted. The report said: “Criminals continue to purchase high value assets, such as real estate, precious gems and jewellery to launder illicit funds which are transferred from Pakistan to the UK and vice versa.” The report says serious and organised crime undermines the legitimacy and authority of the state and poses a fundamental threat to the country’s future security. The UAE is also an attractive location for those who also wish to launder the proceeds of crime from abroad.
Experts say multinationals, like Maersk, are involved in massive tax evasion, misdeclaration of consignments, causing heavy losses to the national exchequer, illegal demurrage and detention and multi-billion dollar corruption. The malpractices have affected Pakistan’s economy badly and pushed the country towards abject poverty. It finds itself in a debt trap, where it has to seek new loans to repay old debt.
Importers have raised their voices against corruption of shipping companies many times. They say Maersk high-ups cause a loss of billions of rupees to the national exchequers every year but the government and national institutions play a role of a silent spectator. Importers also lodged a complaint with the NAB and demanded recoveries from Maersk as the private port terminals and shipping companies cause a Rs610 billion loss to the national exchequer every year. They demanded action against accused including Søren Skou, Claus V. Hemmingsen, Søren Toft, Vincent Clercp, Morten H. Engelstoft, Aruna Hussain, Arslan Khan, Gazanfar Khan, Raheel Salim, Maqsood Ul Hasan Khan, Fuad Khan, Hasan Faraz, Shakeel Masih, Omer Khan, Ali Jawad Alvi, Zafar Iqbal, Ayesha Chowdhry, Zahid Hussain, Salman Ahmad, Aamir Ali, Umais Aziz Khan, Mohammed Naeem, Farheen Mahmud, Mubasshar Iqbal, Affaq Syed, Syed Mohammad Abbas Jafri, Muhammad Tanveer Sharif, Salman Ateeq, Hamza Haq, Ziad Mahboob, Aamir Ibrahim, Yasir Saeed Khan, Amal Sadiq Dawood, Effat Mehmood, Maria Urooj, Zain Warsi, Mehreen Zulfiqar, Awais Saleem, Zafar Iqbal, Syed Osman Iqbal Zaidi, Anum Yaqub, Fahad Ali, Obaid Iqbal, Zahid Hussain, Muhammad Ali Qureshi, Danish Siddiqui, Amir Arif, Arshad Ayub, Syed Mudassir Ali, Syed Hammad Hussain, Ayesha Qadri, Sheikh Samiullah and others of Maersk Pakistan Private Limited.
Business community has provided evidences that Maersk and its MD Aruna Hussain are involved in massive corruption, tax evasion and misdeclarations. However, the FBR and the Ports and Shipping Ministry are reluctant to take action against them for unknown reasons. However, the situation is different in other countries. Maersk offices in Brazil were raided by the police in connection with the long-running corruption investigation known as Operation Car Wash. Brazilian prosecutors have accused Maersk of paying about $3.4 million in bribes to Petrobras employees in connection with procurement of 11 shipping contracts, which were collectively worth about $140 million.
Maersk is also involved in multi-billion tax evasion in Pakistan but no action has been taken against the company. Estimates say it causes a whooping Rs610 billion loss to the national exchequer every year. When it is minting billions of rupees from importers, tax evasion and other illegal practices every year, it is highly likely that Maersk and its DG Aruna Hussain are sending the ill-gotten money abroad through illegal channels and money laundering because they cannot use legal channels for it. Businesspeople demand stern action against the company, so that the huge losses could be plugged and a strong warning is sent to other companies and individuals to stop them from their criminal activities.