Money Laundering Law is Inapplicable on Offenses Before 2016

The Supreme Court recently gave a detailed judgment regarding the Justice Qazi Faez Isa case. They have announced that the money laundering law of the country was rendered inapplicable to offenses that date back prior to 2016. 

A detailed judgment was authored by the judge namely, Justice Umar Ata Bandial. He was backed up by six more judges. 

The ruling stated that four new sections of the ordinance were introduced in May of 2016 however, they could not apply to Justice Qazi’s case. The reason given was quite simple; the London properties had been purchased by the petitioner and his family back in 2011 and 2013. 

Moreover, the judgment also said that as per facts, violations of the ordinance would not be taken into consideration. Thus, a money-laundering allegation could not be proved. To give further proof of how the anti-money laundering law (AMLA) was inapplicable in this case, the judge mentioned Article 12 of the Constitution of Pakistan. 

This detailed verdict was released on Friday, exactly four months after Justice Isa’s removal was sought. A 10-judge larger bench wanted the judge gone after it was observed that he had not mentioned the London properties owned by his family when he presented his wealth statement. 

The verdict passed also stated that a ‘mala fide in law’ had tainted the presidential reference. It also contained strong comments against the former attorney general of Pakistan (AGP), the federal minister for law, and the president himself. 

The mention of Article 12 was to show evidence against retrospective punishment. 

The article outlines that no punishment will be given to a person if they omit any information, which was not required by law at the time of the omission or the act itself. The court highlighted this part when it ruled against retrospective punishment. 

Hence, the detailed verdict stated that it did not seem plausible to remove Justice Isa due to the acts he committed back in 2011 and 2013. 

The court referred to Sections 2 and 3 of the anti-money laundering law and stated that one main element in the crime of money laundering is the commission of a ‘predicate offense’. The judge went on to explain that when such an offense is carried out, it leads to the criminal offense of money laundering. However, since there was no proof of commission of predicate offense, the money laundering charge could not be filed. 

In the case of Justice Isa, the court observed that the main allegation came from the fact that he had not included several properties in his wealth statement. These properties are located in London and owned by his children and wife. 

The verdict detailed that the contents to be included in the wealth statement are outlined in Section 116(1) of the ordinance. The presiding judge pointed out that there were two hurdles. One was the fact that the ordinance was unclear whether the assets of a financially independent spouse needed to be declared by the taxpayer. The second problem was the lack of predicate offense.