ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister, Faryal Talpur, on Monday appeared before investigators of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) with regard to a money laundering case involving multi-billion rupees transactions through fake bank accounts.
The FIA on Saturday issued notices to the former president and Talpur for the fourth time, summoning them to appear before its investigation team in connection with the scandal that surfaced in June.
Zardari and Talpur appeared before the team at its Islamabad Zonal office. The PPP leaders including Naveed Qamar, Chaudhry Manzoor, Qamar Zaman Kaira and others accompanied the siblings.
During the in-camera proceedings, the FIA team, comprising Additional Director General Najaf Mirza, questioned Zardari and Talpur for around 35 minutes.
According to sources, Zardari avoided answering a few of the questions put to him by the investigators. Zardari’s counsel Farooq H Naek earlier denied that the FIA’s case includes money laundering charges.
The FIA has to submit a report in the Supreme Court of Pakistan regarding its ongoing investigation into the matter today (Tuesday). The former president appeared pretty relaxed after the probe session.
Responding to queries of media, Zardari said it was the FIA’s prerogative to ask questions. However, he said, the real question is as to what is the reality. “The case has been ‘formed’ against me and unfortunately it was formed during tenure of [former premier] Mian Nawaz Sharif,” he added.
Meanwhile, addressing a press conference in Islamabad, the PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said Zardari has nothing to do with the Zardari Group since he became the president of Pakistan in 2008. Zardari and Talpur are witnesses in the FIR and they are not accused in it, Kaira added.
“It is misleading to report that the FIA officials asked [Zardari, Talpur] questions about bank transactions. Despite requests by their lawyer no question was asked [in this regard] by the FIA team,” he added.
On August 17, a local banking court in Karachi issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Zardari and other absconding suspects in the ongoing probe. The court ordered the suspects to be arrested and presented before it by September 4.
However, on August 18, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) approved the former president’s petition – filed through his counsels Aitzaz Ahsan and Latif Khosa – for a protective bail in the case.
The FIA is investigating 32 people, including Zardari and Talpur, in relation to the money laundering through fake accounts. Zardari’s close aide, Hussain Lawai, was arrested last month in connection with the probe.
Over 20 suspicious bank accounts were opened in 2013, 2014 and 2015 at some private banks and transactions worth billions of rupees were made through them. The amount, according to FIA, is said to be black money gathered from various kickbacks, commissions and bribes.
According to the FIR registered against Lawai and others, billions of rupees were deposited into the said fake accounts and subsequently transferred to different accounts, including that of Zardari and his sister Talpur’s company, Zardari Group, which is shown to have received Rs15 million.