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Exchange firms protest against ‘harassment’

KARACHI: Foreign currency dealers have asked for legal protection while meeting with the Finance Minister Asad Umar and Director General Federal Investigation Authority (FIA).

Exchange companies complained that they were being harassed by the FIA officials ever since Pakistan was included in the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) greylist of countries with counter-terrorism financing and anti-money laundering deficiencies.

Following the inclusion in the list, Pakistan committed to working with the FATF and the Asia Pacific Group (APG) to address strategic counter-terrorist financing-related deficiencies by implementing the APG proposed action plan to achieve these objectives. However, a delegation of the APG group in its review in October showed its dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s progress on the front.

Ever since the inclusion in the greylist, the government has taken multiple steps to curb money laundering including surprise checking of the exchange companies. However, the exchange companies have complained that multiple checks by the FIA have resulted in embarrassment for them have made the currency business increasingly cumbersome.

“We have provided $13 billion to the government since 2010 while we provide billions to travellers, haj pilgrims, students and for healthcare but the surprise checking by FIA is making it difficult to continue our business in normal way,” President Forex Association of Pakistan Malik Bostan told Dawn on Thursday.

Mr Bostan, accompanied by other currency dealers, met with the finance minster and DG FIA in Islamabad last week to inform them on the harassment in the currency market. “The finance minister asked State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to help us in this matter after which Governor Tariq Bajwa invited us to discuss the situation,” said Mr Bostan while adding that he will work with other exchange companies to prepare a proposal to make surprise checking more transparent.

“We want mechanism like SBP sends checking team and we have phone number of central bank’s officials to confirm about the arrival of those teams,” he said. Moreover, he said that we also want to make videos of surprise checking as proof to avoid any false claims from either side

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