Pakistan charges traffickers with money laundering over Greece boat tragedy

Survivors of a migrant shipwreck gather Wednesday in a warehouse at the port in Kalamata, Greece, about 150 miles southwest of Athens. (Photo/AP)

Pakistan has decided to charge the suspected human traffickers involved in last month's shipwreck off the coast of Greece under the country's anti-money laundering law.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which is investigating the incident, said in a statement on Monday that the passports of the suspected traffickers will also be blacklisted, apart from blocking their national identity cards and bank accounts.

The decisions were announced during a meeting held in the northeastern city of Lahore to review the progress in the shipwreck investigation with Director General FIA Mohsin Butt in the chair.

The incident, in which some 350 Pakistanis were among over 800 onboard a fishing trawler that sank, shook the South Asian nation and led to a countrywide crackdown against human traffickers who have long been luring youths to illegally transport them to Europe for huge amounts.

A total of 149 cases have so far been registered following the shipwreck, while 41 suspected human traffickers have been arrested, the statement said.

Hundreds of unemployment-stricken Pakistani youths risk their lives to reach Europe by sea and road for a better future after paying huge amounts to human smugglers, despite frequent accidents. Many of them are even shot by border guards.

In March this year, a famous Pakistani woman athlete Shahida Raza, and several others were killed after a boat carrying more than 150 others from Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan crashed into the rocks trying to reach the shores in Crotone, Italy.

'Greece didn't start the rescue for hours'

Greece has drawn international criticism for its refugee and migrant pushbacks, and some accounts have shown that the Southeast European country's grim policies against migrants might have caused the deadly shipwreck.

"Greek authorities knew that a ship carrying asylum seekers is in danger in their waters, but didn't start the rescue for hours," Erik Marquardt, a German Member of the European Parliament from the Green Group, said citing survivors.

"Some survivors even indicate that the Greek Coast Guard was directly involved and might have caused the shipwreck," he added.

Vincent Cochetel, special envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for the central and western Mediterranean, has said that Greece's argument for not intervening "does not hold up".

"Under international law, Greek authorities should have organised this rescue operation sooner, as soon as Frontex spotted the boat in distress," he said.

"The boat was full to bursting... and the photos taken by Frontex leave no doubt that it was adrift and that people were objectively in a distress situation," Cochetel said.


Source: TRT