Billions of ill-gotten dollars are laundered through financial institutions every year globally. Illegally acquired money can also be laundered without the assistance of the financial sector. The nature of the services and products offered by the financial services industry (namely managing, controlling and possessing money and property belonging to others) means that it is vulnerable to abuse by money-launderers.Financial crimes mostly relate to narcotics trafficking, terrorism, smuggling, tax evasion, and corruption. This is compounded by respectable bankers becoming part of the process, either through greed, or in many cases, through threats and intimidation. In an August 2017 report, the Basel Institute on Governance ranked Pakistan 46 out of 146 countries that face significant money laundering and terrorism financing risks. The US State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report in early 2017 estimated that 10 billion dollars are laundered by Pakistanis every year. Billions are shipped off by criminals and corrupt individuals in an effort to escape paying taxes and avoid government scrutiny. Countering money laundering and the financing of terrorism in line with Pakistan’s action plan agreed on with Financial Action Task Force (FATF), continues to be a serious problem. The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) “Partnering Against Corruption Initiative” (PACI) Fall Meeting held last October in Geneva agreed that without conforming to international standards, there can be no effective implementation of laws. Without adequate proof of assets and money trails, it is almost impossible to prove a crime in court. Meaning as long as the methods and tools of investigation in developing countries remain outdated, there will be little progress. Developed countries, where most of the ill-gotten money and assets reside, pontificate endlessly about adhering to the “rule of law”.Even if anti-money laundering laws are in place, corrupt politicians and others, criminals included, will find loopholesEven if anti-money laundering laws are in place, corrupt politicians and others, criminals included, will find loopholes in the banking and legal system around the world because of banks willing to handle their ill-gotten money and bribery payments in safe havens. On July 6, ousted prime minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment in the Avenfield Apartments corruption reference by a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) accountability court. His daughter Maryam was awarded 7-years imprisonment, and her husband was sentenced to a year in jail. The court also disqualified all three from holding any public office for 10 years and availing any bank loans for the same period under Section 15 of the NAO.Nawaz and Maryam are presently in London and are scheduled to return to Lahore on Friday, July 13. Lahore is considered the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N)’s stronghold and preparations are being made by the party leadership to give their leaders a “historic welcome”. It is obvious that this is just to flex political muscle. The PML-N wants nothing but a confrontation with law enforcement agencies and then play an innocent victim by claiming Nawaz Sharif has been denied the right to speak to his followers. This is a very dangerous game and the government must not fall into this trap. With the situation likely to get out of hand, the alternative could be to divert the flight from Lahore to another city, arrest the duo and whisk them away to Islamabad, all this without making it public.PML-N’s leadership claims the ousted PM is extremely popular in Pakistan, brazenly declaring that Nawaz Sharif has the mandate of 200 million Pakistanis. This is an outright lie! In the 2013 elections PML-N obtained 14.9 million votes, or 32 percent of the 46 million out of the 86 million who voted. Furthermore, the “first past the post system” does not ascertain the real majority, the “run-off” measure does. Negating “proportional representation” bedevils good governance as has now been proven with Nawaz Sharif being sentenced for corruption. If popularity is to be taken as the yardstick to measure the strength of democracy, some of the world’s most notorious criminals and drug lords were extremely popular with their countrymen. Building roads and motorways is all well and good, but this does not give anyone the license to steal from public coffers. Is this the kind of democracy that we yearn for? Where there is no rule of law and no accountability? Accountability sits at the heart of the democratic process.Branded Public Enemy No.1 by the Chicago Crime Commission, Al Capone got 11 years for tax dodging. Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman who faces trial in the US, is accused of running a global cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine smuggling operation as the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. El Chapo played a central role in a decade-long Mexican drug war in which more than 100,000 people have died. Guzman raked in $14 billion, his network spanning four continents. Wanted by the governments of the US, Mexico and Interpol, he was extradited by the Mexican government to the US to face criminal charges there related to his leadership of the Sinaloa cartel. One of the most wanted criminals on the planet, El Chapo took pains to burnish his image in Mexico. Residents tell stories of his sudden appearances at village fiestas, doling out rolls of cash to adoring crowds. Most viewed him as a leader and a hero because “he started from below, very poor, a peasant, and he helped people”.He built concrete roads and would pay hospital bills for treatment of the sick. In contrast, the government often failed to provide even basic infrastructure for those in poor, remote villages. Another darling of the people was Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, whose ambition and ruthlessness made him one of the wealthiest, most powerful and most violent criminals of all time. Entering the cocaine trade in the early 1970s, Escobar formed the Medellin Cartel. His popularity was due to sponsoring charity projects and soccer clubs, he built houses and cared for the poor. Seen by many as a Robin Hood figure, he was killed by Colombian police in 1993.Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur have been banned from travelling abroad by the Supreme Court (SC) in the wake of recent revelations in a fake bank accounts case. They are accused of using 29 such accounts for suspicious transactions and money laundering amounting to Rs 35 billion. This is only the tip of Zardari’s illegal iceberg.Unlike drug lords Chapo and Escobar, Zardari has done nothing for the people of Sindh, he has only enriched himself. Because of new international laws Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari and their ilk cannot camouflage their assets behind offshore companies anymore. UAE National Mr Nasser Lootah is a very nice man who has been a gracious host to Pakistani politicians and bureaucrats out of power for decades in Dubai. While he is just a front man for Zardari in Summit Bank, I am sure he would not like to run afoul of UAE laws. An honourable person who is very rich in his own right, Nasser Lootah is not likely to lie about Zardari’s money-laundering. Why doesn’t the SC ask him how much his investment in Summit Bank amounts to, as well as Zardari’s?Zardari and Faryal Talpur have been summoned by the FIA on July 11 and by the SC on July 12. If the subsequent investigation proceeds in the manner of the Panama JIT then justice shall be served. A change is definitely taking place in Pakistan, where the mighty and powerful are being charged for their crimes, unheard of not too long ago.Having beggared Pakistan through their version of democracy, they will be punished for their despicable crimes against the people of Pakistan.The writer is a defence and security analystPublished in Daily Times, July 12th 2018.