Editorial - Tracing corruption - Saturday, February 12, 2011

Source : http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=30675&Cat=8

If there is a single linking element to the many corruption cases before the courts today, it is the ‘digital fingerprint’. Some criminals wear gloves in order not to leave fingerprints at the scene of their crime, but disguising the digital fingerprint is not so easy. When the FIA went to the house of former Religious Affairs Minister, Hamid Saeed Kazmi, they already knew the answers to a number of questions which they might have for him. Kazmi is now the subject of a non-bailable arrest warrant issued on Thursday by senior Civil Judge, Muhammad Aslam Gondal; after evidence was presented by the FIA indicative of wrongdoing by Kazmi. The former minister was not at home, and had reportedly fled for reasons best known to himself. What had led the investigators to his door were the records of cellular phone companies that had logged his calls to Ahmed Faiz, allegedly his ‘front man’ in Saudi Arabia. Alongside this, was evidence from banks regarding accounts held by Kazmi. Money is very rarely physically moved these days, it is moved electronically and it leaves a set of fingerprints behind it as it moves through the internet. If Kazmi has moved any money in connection with the alleged Haj scam, then there will be digital evidence of it that is virtually impossible to hide. When questioned by the FIA, Kazmi had been unable to explain the origins of some of the money in his accounts.

Also caught in the eye of the superior judiciary is Abdul Qadir Gilani, the son of the prime minister. The Supreme Court has developed an interest in his wealth as well, and wishes to know where the money came from that financed a bullet-proof vehicle from one of the Gulf states, and even more intriguingly, just how much tax has he paid in recent years? Tax records are another of those fingerprints that are hard to erase, especially when you have a lifestyle of conspicuous consumption but are filing records that suggest that your income is below what you appear to be spending. All of this is what is known elsewhere in the world as ‘white collar crime’ – crime committed by people outside the normal criminal spectrum, often otherwise upstanding members of the community and therefore believing themselves above both suspicion and, ultimately, the law. Forensic accountancy is a growing job market here, and the digital sleuths are getting better by the day at tracking their prey. Hiding was never more difficult, and denial never more pointless.

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