By Kazim Alam
KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan on Friday inaugurated a high-tech data centre which will help the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) in tracking down money laundering and terrorism financing.
The FMU is the financial intelligence unit of the finance ministry tasked with fighting money laundering and terror financing.
Established with the financial assistance of the UK Department for International Development, the data centre will host a specialist analytical suite of software (goAML) developed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
According to Shabbar Zaidi, a chartered accountant and former provincial finance minister, overvaluation and a lack of genuineness in financial transactions alert authorities to the possibility of money laundering.
The data centre will enable the FMU to automate the collection and analyse suspicious financial transactions being received from banks, exchange companies and other reporting entities in Pakistan. Moreover, the integrated system will enhance the FMU’s capability of disseminating financial intelligence to designated law enforcement agencies.
Speaking to Dawn, SBP Director Abid Qamar said the data centre would detect money laundering that was currently being done through formal banking channels. It was not meant for controlling money laundering that was taking place through illegal channels, such as physical movement of currency notes across international borders, he added.
Mr Qamar said the extent of money laundering could not be determined right now. “We will have sufficient data in terms of the number of suspicious transactions and convictions in due course,” he added.
Previously, the analysis of financial data at the autonomous FMU was undertaken manually, which was slow and vulnerable to oversight. Now the customised software and high-precision equipment installed in the new data centre will allow the FMU to analyse suspicious transactions in a more robust, sophisticated and automated manner.
The British high commissioner and the UNODC representative accompanied SBP Governor Ashraf Mehmood Wathra at the inauguration.
Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2017