- PIA terminates five crewmembers ‘questioned’ by London authority over money laundering charges
The management of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Tuesday terminated the services of five crewmembers of June 7’s PK-788 flight from London to Karachi for violating rules and regulations, a day after their “examination” by United Kingdom (UK) authorities on charges of smuggling and money laundering.
PIA’s latest official statement does not specify the violations conducted by the crew, however a PIA spokesperson had earlier said that UK’s border security force had stopped the crew for questioning. He had also dismissed reports of currency and cell phones being seized from the crew’s possession.
According to Tuesday’s media reports, Scotland Yard confirmed that officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) and the Border Force were involved in the stop, search and investigation of seven crew members of PIA.
According to reports, a Scotland Yard spokesman revealed that “approximately £20,000 in cash” was seized by the officers from the PIA crew members, who were stopped and searched on Sunday 7 June 2015 at the Heathrow Airport. The crew members were about to fly from London Heathrow to Karachi when the officers, acting on intelligence, swooped on the flight to examine seven people.
The spokesman said that it was a joint operation between the two forces. Those who were stopped and examined included four women (aged between 31 and 44 years) and three men (aged between 31 and 36 years] under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
The spokesman said that the PIA crew members were “subsequently released in the early hours of Monday, 8 June 2015” and “enquiries continue”.
Under Schedule 7 Port and Border Controls of the Terrorism Act 2000 a person may be detained and questioned for up to six hours to determine if that individual is a person concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism as outlined in the Act.
As with any power to detain an individual it is used appropriately and proportionately and is subject to scrutiny by the Independent Reviewer of UK anti-terror laws.
The PIA aircraft on Sunday night flew to Karachi with a crew comprising only seven members, which is below the required number per international flight safety standards. The police are investigating the origin of the money in order to determine that the crew members were not involved in money-laundering.
According to the UK law, any amount in cash equivalent to GBP 8,500 or €10,000 must be declared and source must be explained.
In the case of the PIA crew members, the seized amount falls within the limits of the amount that can be carried but the authorities have the right to ask questions about the source of the cash and seize the amount.
A police source said that the amount seized by the authorities from the PIA crew members is being investigated and will not be given back to the PIA crew members unless they provide reasonable explanation of the source and origin of the money.