Police in the French capital city of Paris dismantled a major Pakistani money-laundering ring with a net worth of 70 millions Euros of transactions in the last two to three years, and arrested 10 Pakistanis involved in the criminal activity.
In a statement released by the Head of the Central Office for the Suppression of Serious Financial Crime (OCRGDF), Anne-Sophie Coulbois said that several people, all from Pakistan had been arrested, indicted and imprisoned last Friday. The ring was mostly living in Seine-Saint-Denis, a neighborhood in the Parisian suburbs, known for its violence and crime, according to Sud-Ouest, a local French daily.
Police started to investigate the ring in June 2020 after it found suspicious packages carrying fake European paperwork arriving in France, from Pakistan by way of Turkey and Greece. The fake documents included official documents of countries in the Schengen area and in particular for France, including passports, identity cards and residence permits.
During the probe, the French authorities also unearthed 20 legal companies connected to the arrested Pakistanis, and involved in the construction business which were linked to a large network of “shell” companies. These companies were used to redirect funds to nearly 200 bank accounts, opened with various false documents.
This network transferred money to the various accounts using fake invoices or documents and then got the money out of the legal circuit by withdrawing large amounts from these bank accounts through ATMs. Part of the money withdrawn was used to pay illegal Pakistanis working in these construction sites and the remaining diverted to Pakistan.
Searches at the houses and offices of these 10 individuals in Paris led to the recovery of 157 fake identity documents, Euros 134,000 in cash, four vehicles including a Maserati, documents related to 180 bank accounts and the false papers used to open these accounts.
As per the police, between 2019 and 2021, at least Euro 28 million were transferred to the bank accounts of different people and another Euro 13 million were transferred to the accounts in the names of front companies, according to media reports.
This development comes at a time when Pakistan is up for a review at the FATF next month. The country has remained on a grey-list for the last couple of years for not doing enough against terror-financing and money-laundering, according to the international monetary watchdog.
But this is not the only case that has surfaced in recent months that points to Pakistan still being a hub of money-laundering and terror-finacing with global networks.
In another court case currently on-going in London, U.K., the British police arrested a Pakistani-British man for plotting to kill a Pakistani dissident in exile, after being promised 100,000 Euros for the hit by a contact back home in Pakistan. Investigators revealed that the hitman was paid around 5000 Euros through a Pakistani bank account and hundi networks in the country, once again exposing how Pakistan continues to have money-laundering channels open, even for transnational crimes like murdering someone on European soil.