KARACHI: After long consultations with his legal team, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has decided to appear before a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court in connection with a case related to Rs35 billion alleged money laundering.
According to earlier reports, the former president had decided not to show up at the SC, which on July 9 summoned him and his sister, Faryal Talpur, on July 12 (today) in connection with the scam that surfaced last week. However, later at night, a senior PPP leader said Zardari will appear in court.
“Zardari will appear before the Supreme Court today (Thursday) in money laundering case. The decision has been taken after long deliberations with his legal team. Farooq H Naek and Sardar Latif Khosa will represent Zardari before the two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar. Other senior PPP lawyers have also been instructed to ensure their presence in the courtroom,” he said,
It will be first time in the last ten years that Zardari will appear before the apex court. Interestingly, the incumbent CJP has summoned record political leaders in his court for the last seven months.
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Four chief ministers including Shehbaz Sharif have appeared before Justice Nisar. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senior leaders Ahsan Iqbal, Saad Rafique, Pervaiz Rashid, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry are also among those who had to appear in his court.
On Tuesday, Zardari and Talpur were also summoned by the FIA in connection with a probe into the 29 fake accounts allegedly used to channel illegal funds and the siblings were directed to appear at an FIA office in Karachi to record their statements. However, they sent their lawyers instead.
“Two junior lawyers from senior PPP leader and advocate Farooq H Naek’s legal team appeared before the FIA to submit a written statement seeking time until after elections,” an FIA source said. “In the request, Zardari and Talpur have committed to appear before the FIA after polls.”
The source said the lawyers appealed to the FIA team to give them time until July 31; however, the FIA officials told them that they would have to submit a charge-sheet in the court by July 23.
According to the PPP sources, the party had unanimously decided in a high-level meeting held in Lahore that the top leadership would not appear before the investigative agency and would be represented by the PPP’s legal team. They said the party has agreed to use delaying tactics until July 25 elections.
The Summit Bank’s former chairman and Zardari’s close confident Hussain Lawai, who is already in the FIA custody in connection with the case, has also been shifted to Islamabad to be presented before the Supreme Court today (Thursday) after his remand was extended till July 14.
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Meanwhile, the FIA officials continued recording statement of Lawai, who is also a former chairman of the Pakistan Stock Exchange. On June 6, the FIA registered a case of alleged money laundering in which 29 bank accounts of the Summit Bank, the Sindh Bank and three other banks were used to channel money.
The agency arrested Lawai and also the Summit Bank’s Senior Vice President Taha Raza. Other accused have either fled the country or are in hiding.
The FIA submitted its report on the scam in the Supreme Court on June 8 after it ordered to place on the Exit Control List (ECL) names of all fake accountholders, people in the Sindh government who transferred funds from these accounts, the contractors and all the suspected beneficiaries.
Meanwhile, a judicial magistrate in Karachi extended until 14 July the physical remand of Lawai and Raza. The FIA on Wednesday produced the accused in the court of judicial magistrate south, before whom the counsels of the accused objected to bringing the accused in handcuffs.
Opposing the physical remand, the counsels said that the inquiry has put the banking sector in a crisis. The FIA authorities said more bank details were needed from the accused. The court later ordered that the handcuffs of the accused be removed but extended the remand till July 14.