KARACHI: The Senate Committee on Finance led by Saleem Mandviwala grilled the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and commercial banks over their role in a massive solar panel scam involving money laundering and illicit financial flows. The committee directed the SBP to submit a detailed report on the matter.

The committee also heard from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the Customs Operations about the progress of the investigation into the scam.

Director PCA Sheeraz Ahmed and his team had detected the scam. During the briefing Sheeraz Ahmed informed that Rs73 billion were evaded in the garb of solar panel import.  

The FBR revealed the arrest of Abdul Aziz, a frontman of a Quetta-based cartel, who confessed to his involvement in the scam. The FBR also informed the committee about the court proceedings against the accused directors of Brightstar, a company that had funnelled illicit funds worth Rs 47 billion abroad.

The committee learned that the scam involved over-invoicing to transfer illicit funds out of the country, which falls under the preview of the SBP and commercial banks. The committee pointed out grave irregularities in banking operations, where several major banks accepted and processed large cash transactions from non-filers or individuals with minimal financial worth.

The SBP representative said that the bank would impose strict penalties on the banks involved and fire the responsible bank officers. The FBR also announced that it had engaged the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) to trace the money trails to the third country, in collaboration with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as part of a pact to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.