ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court summoned on Sunday heads of three private banks in a case about suspicious transactions carried out through fictitious bank accounts.
Summoning the chief executives of Summit Bank, Sindh Bank, and UBL, the apex court also ordered beneficiaries of these accounts, including former president Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur.
Citing a report compiled by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Director-General of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Bashir Memon briefed the court that SBP had reported opening of 29 suspicious bank accounts in January this year, following which the agency had launched an inquiry.
“Transactions amounting to more than Rs35 billion were made through these 29 accounts. Sixteen of the accounts are in the Summit Bank, eight in Sindh Bank and five in the UBL,” he said.
The apex court initiated a suo motu case in this regard after a TV channel aired a report a couple of days ago.
Names of seven persons were used in opening these accounts, he said, adding that FIA had completed inquiry in just one case and it was still probing 28 other such cases.
According to him, FIA had finalized the case and registered an FIR in connection with the account fraudulently opened in Summit Bank’s Khyaban-e-Tanzeem branch in Karachi.
As much as Rs4.4 billion were credited and routed through this account in a 10-month period in 2014-15, the account’s statement showed.
Major transactions in these accounts included the transfer of Rs2.4 billion to Nasser Abdullah Loota, the former chairman of the Summit Bank and a UAE national, and transfer of Rs15 million to the account opened in the name of the Zardari Group (Zardari and Faryal Talpur). The FIA has established 15 depositors and 13 beneficiaries in whose accounts various amounts were transferred.
All beneficiaries and depositors were told to personally appear in the inquiry and justify the transactions but “they have deliberately not joined the inquiry”.
According to FIA, an account was opened in the name of A-One International, a firm whose sole proprietor was shown to be one Tariq Sultan. His CNIC was used to open the account but when the FIA approached him, he denied opening the account. A handwriting expert corroborated his claim.
The FIA booked at least six bank staffers, including Nasser Abdullah Loota and Hussain Lawai, on charges of fraud, forgery and money-laundering.
Lawai and Taha Raza, who is the Unit Corporate Head at the Summit Bank, have also been arrested.
The FIR stated that documents were referred to Raza when the bank account was opened and he sent them back, remarking ‘Referred by Hussain Lawai’ and directed the bank staff concerned to open the account.
Memon said that the inquiry was initially launched in 2015 and the delay was caused by non-cooperation of the banks which did not provide the agency with relevant records.
He said that notices were also served on all seven persons in whose names these 29 suspicious accounts were opened, but so far only three of them had responded.
The chief justice asked the FIA to expedite the inquiry and suggested forming a joint NAB-FIA team to probe this case quickly. “The country (urgently) needs cash but (the pace of) your inquiry is slow,” he remarked.
At the end, the three-member bench ordered the SBP to help the FIA in obtaining relevant record from the banks concerned and summoned the heads of these banks to appear in the next hearing to be held on July 12.
On FIA’s request, the chief justice also ordered the SBP to seize the Summit Bank’s Rs7billion equity.
The court also directed the interior ministry to place names of all individuals involved in opening these suspicious accounts on ECL in addition to individuals nominated in the FIR.
The IG Sindh has been directed to ensure the presence of all the beneficiaries in the court at the next hearing.