UAE to take action against Pakistani bank if found violating laws

The central bank confirms that it has zero tolerance for non-compliance with AML legal requirements.

The UAE Central Bank on Wednesday said it is in close contact with Pakistan’s central bank and will take appropriate regulatory actions against a Pakistani bank which has reportedly been founding violating the money laundering laws.

“We are in close contact with the home regulator of the Pakistani bank, the State Bank of Pakistan, and will take appropriate regulatory action once we have verified the findings reported in the media to confirm if there was any violation to UAE’s Anti-Money Laundering and Combat of Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) laws and procedures,” the UAE Central Bank said in the statement on Wednesday.

Earlier, State Bank of Pakistan, the country’s central bank, had said in a finding that there were “significant irregularities” in Habib Bank Ltd’s (HBL) dealing with politically exposed clients and screening some transactions in the Middle East. The inspection was carried out as part of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

HBL admitted that weaknesses were found in its UAE operations in 2017 and later it initiated a business transformation programme which is now largely complete and has put new leadership in place.

Bloomberg reported that HBL’s UAE employees issued pay orders in their own names to help certain customers disguise transactions. The bank reportedly violated rules when opening an account of Duduzane Zuma, the son of South Africa’s ex-President Jacob Zuma.

“In 2017, few weaknesses were identified at HBL UAE which contravened our processes and standards. This should never have happened. Over the last two years, we initiated a business transformation programme which is now largely complete. A new senior leadership team is in place. All staff has undertaken additional training as a reminder of our robust compliance and control processes and their responsibilities,” the bank said in the statement.

In September, New York authorities had fined HBL for weak anti-money-laundering controls and sanctions compliance and ordered it to surrender its license.

HBL disclosed that it would complete the voluntary closure of its NY branch by March 31, 2020 ins coordination with New York State banking regulators.

“We believe this is material positive for the bank as this finally settles the dust over the threat of further punitive action from US regulators,” Arif Habib Ltd said in a note.

“Central Bank of UAE expects high standards of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) compliance from all banks, including branches of foreign banks operating in the UAE. Central Bank confirms that it has zero tolerance for non-compliance with AML legal requirements,” the UAE apex bank said on Wednesday

Trump says working on a very big trade deal with India, but will take time

US President Donald Trump said the United States and India were working on a major trade deal, but he was not sure if it would be completed before the presidential election in November.

As Trump heads to India on his first official trip on Monday, negotiators have been trying for weeks to put together a limited accord giving the US greater access to India’s dairy and poultry markets and lowering tariffs on other products.

But no breakthrough has yet been announced and a planned trip by United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was canceled, underlining the difficulties the two sides face in narrowing differences ahead of Trump’s visit.

“We can have a trade deal with India, but I’m really saving the big deal for later on,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday, outside Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

“We’re doing a very big trade deal with India. We’ll have it. I don’t know if it’ll be done before the election, but we’ll have a very big deal with India,” he said, in a transcript of remarks released by the White House.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has tried to build a personal rapport with Trump, is pulling out all the stops for his visit, hosting him next week in Modi’s western home state of Gujarat for a reception in a cricket stadium.

“We’re not treated very well by India, but I happen to like Prime Minister Modi a lot. And he told me we’ll have 7 million people between the airport and the event,” Trump said, referring to a roadshow ahead of a “Hello Trump” rally in Ahmedabad, the main city in Gujarat where he will begin the trip.

The United States is India’s second largest trade partner after China, with their goods and services trade hitting a record $142.6 billion in 2018.

Last year, the United States had a $23.2 billion goods trade deficit in 2019 with India, its 9th largest trading partner in goods.

Since Trump took office in 2017, long-standing trade differences between the world’s biggest democracies have come to the fore, with Trump calling India the tariff king.

The two have warred over everything from tariffs on farm goods to Harley Davidson motorbikes and price caps on medical devices and India’s new rules on local data storage.

India and the United States have built close political and security ties in recent years, with New Delhi turning to Washington as a top arms supplier, edging out traditional partner Russia.

Modi’s cabinet was meeting on Wednesday to give formal clearance for a $2.6-billion deal for two dozen military helicopters from U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin.

Hydrogen sulphide, nitric oxide found in Keamari during monitoring of air quality

KARACHI: The air quality monitoring conducted over the past two days by a private laboratory in two affected areas of Keamari has found the air extremely polluted but the levels of pollutants — particularly two harmful gases which should not be present in the air at all — did not cross the limit where it could endanger life, it emerged on Tuesday.

Sources also underlined the need for having a multi-disciplinary team and close coordination among the various investigating agencies to find the source of the toxic gas leak that was initially reported on Sunday night in the residential areas surrounding the port in Keamari and so far claimed 14 lives and sickened over 300.

These areas included Bhutta village, Railway Colony, Jackson bazaar and Massan Road.

“The levels of all pollutants particularly the hazardous hydrogen sulphide and nitric oxide gases were found very high late Monday night near the Ziauddin Hospital when reports of more people being affected by the toxic gas leak emerged,” said an official of the Global Environmental Laboratory (GEL) on the condition of anonymity.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

“Harmful gases such as hydrogen sulphide and nitric oxide shouldn’t be present in healthy air at all,” he said.

A private lab assesses the levels of the two gases didn’t reach the limit where they could endanger life

“But, levels of these gases didn’t reach the limit where they could endanger a life, though they would have long-term impact on health depending upon the extent and duration of exposure. The level of these gases was also high on Monday afternoon when we started monitoring air quality,” the official added.

The private laboratory certified by the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency is carrying out air monitoring on Sepa’s request as the environmental watchdog is ill-equipped to do the task.

Over the past two days, it monitored air quality at the railway gate and near Ziauddin Hospital in Keamari and in the area of Seaview, Clifton.

According to the GEL official, higher levels of pollutants were also noted during monitoring in the Seaview area.

“It’s important to know that air quality monitoring was done several hours after the gas leak incident so we can’t say with 100 per cent surety what caused casualties unless these results match with some other evidence.

“For instance, the autopsy reports of the gas leak victims could provide a crucial link between fatalities and the gas causing death as different gases affect the body in different ways.

“The evidence would then help identify the source of gas leakage for which a team of experts should carry out a thorough survey of all terminals, operating near/within the residential areas, which are being used to store oil and petroleum products,” he explained.

The fact that casualties occurred in the residential areas gave credence to the assumption that the toxic gas/es leaked at any of these terminals, he reasoned.

PEOPLE in Keamari move about with face masks in this picture by Fahim Siddiqi/White Star while locals hold a protest in reaction to the tragedy on Tuesday in this PPI photo.
PEOPLE in Keamari move about with face masks in this picture by Fahim Siddiqi/White Star while locals hold a protest in reaction to the tragedy on Tuesday in this PPI photo.

The GEL report, a copy of which is available with Dawn, said: “The levels of all pollutants were found to be higher than the allowable limits (Sindh Environmental Quality Standards) when monitored around midnight near Ziauddin Hospital in Keamari.

“However, the main source of gas leakage and reason for fatalities is yet to be confirmed. The higher levels of pollutants at Seaview need to be assessed further as they may be due to local factors.”

The laboratory results clearly show that levels of all major air pollutants including particulate matter were very high; the levels of hydrogen sulphide (SEQ none) ranged between 145ppb (parts per billion) and 661ppb whereas levels of nitric oxide (SEQ 40ppb) ranged between 191ppb and 784ppb.

The levels of sulphur dioxide (SEQ 120ppb) ranged between 123ppb and 1420ppb.

The levels of volatile compounds (SEQ none) was 73ppb and 886ppb.

Murad hopes ‘mystery’ to be solved soon

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Tuesday said the whole matter of toxic gas in Keamari had turned into a “mystery” and all forces and agencies were involved to unearth the real cause behind the incident.

“I am thankful to Pak Army, Sindh police, district administration and health department who all have worked together to unearth the causes of the gas leakage,” said Mr Shah, adding, “Pakistan Navy and Suparco are conducting lab tests of the wind and samples of various oils and goods cargos … at KPT.”

“The lab results would definitely resolve the issue,” he hoped.

CM Shah said he had visited Keamari on Tuesday night and went to a private hospital before a visit to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre and met with the patients and their attendants.

Later, Sindh Information Minister Nasir Shah along with Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani briefed the media at the latter’s office.

He said investigations into the incident were going on and media would be informed about the real causes behind the leakage once the findings were furnished before the authorities.

He said samples of the gas had been sent to a Karachi University laboratory and PCSIR.

“Appropriate action would be taken against those who are found responsible for the incident,” said the minister.

He said all the relevant agencies came into action soon after the incident was reported.

“Most of those affected people have been given treatment and discharged from hospitals. Those people have returned to their homes.”

He added the provincial health department had declared a state of emergency in all its hospitals after the incident and still the provincial government’s agencies and Pakistan Navy were there to guide the people in need.

He said the Karachi Port was a busy gateway of Pakistan that was why slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had planned for the Keti Bundar project to keep the port away from human settlements.

He said chemical factories should also be located away from the city. He expressed his regret over certain statements by the opposition parties regarding the issue, adding that such human miseries should not be used for politics.

Minister Shah said so far Keamari was the only area where the lethal gas had affected its residents while reports about its spread to other areas were not correct.

He said the chief minister had earlier suggested for evacuation of the area because of the situation at that time, but now the situation had improved.

Commissioner Shallwani said the incident had affected only a single area. He asked the media not to lend an ear to the rumours regarding spread of gas in other parts of the teeming metropolis.

Strike observed in Quetta to mourn suicide blast victims

QUETTA: A complete strike was observed here on Tuesday in protest against killing of eight innocent people in a suicide blast on Monday.

The strike was called by political parties, including the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awa­mi Party, Awami Nat­ional Party, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, Pakistan Peoples Party, Balochistan National Party-Mengal and traders’ organisations.

All shops, markets, shopping malls and business establishments remained closed in the city throughout the day to condemn terrorism.

The Quetta city and areas on its outskirts presented a gloomy and deserted look. Traffic also remained thin as majority of the vehicles remained off the road. Most of the banks closed their main shutters, but served customers through small doors.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

Heavy contingents of police, Balochistan Constabulary and Frontier Corps were deployed in and around the city to deal with any untoward situation.

Political parties thanked people and the business community for keeping their business completely closed throughout the day. They said the peaceful people of Quetta had proved that they are against terrorism and want peace in Balochistan.

FIR registered

Meanwhile, the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) registered a first information report (FIR) of the suicide attack.

Police said that the FIR had been registered on a complaint of the Civil Lines SHO against unknown people under sections of the Pakistan Penal Code and the Anti-terrorist Act.

A team of senior police officers was investigating the incident.

The funeral prayer for two policemen and one Levies man, who lost their lives in the suicide blast, was performed at the Police Lines, Quetta. Home Minister Mir Ziaullah Langove, Inspector General of Police Mohsin Hassan Butt, DIG Quetta Abdul Razzak Cheema and other officials attended the funeral.