The names of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah would be removed from the Exit Control List (ECL) after receiving the detailed judgement from the Supreme Court, said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi during Wednesday’s National Assembly session.
Radio Pakistan reported that the foreign minister was responding to Points of Order raised by PPP leaders Shazia Marri and Naveed Qamar. Qureshi added that Chief Justice Saqib Nisar had only directed to review the matter, not remove the names from the no-fly list.
The foreign minister further elaborated that a committee working in the interior ministry also decides on issues related to the no-flyer list.
On December 27, in view of the joint investigation team (JIT) report on the fake bank accounts case, the federal government decided to place the names of 172 people, including PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on the no-flyer list.
The investigation of money laundering involving billions of rupees started in December 2015. According to sources in the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), suspicious bank accounts were unearthed and the owner of a money exchange company taken into custody by an intelligence agency made disclosures about them during investigations.
Initial investigations revealed that suspicious transactions of approximately Rs15 billion had been made through such accounts in the Sindh and Summit banks. Contractor companies working with Sindh government deposited money in the accounts of companies which later proved to be fictitious.
Later these amounts were not only transferred into the accounts of Omni Group, a bank official and the Zardari Group’s accounts but personal expenses of important persons of the political party were also paid from them, the sources alleged. These included expenses for foreign travel and purchase of luxury vehicles. However, these investigations were put on the backburner for unknown reasons.
In December 2017, the investigations were opened once again and the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) that investigates money laundering issued a report of suspicious transactions. The FIA formally started its investigations afterwards.
In July, the Supreme Court took suo motu notice of slow progress in the investigations. The FIA registered a case of money laundering on July 6 and arrested former chief of Summit Bank Hussain Lawai and senior banker Taha Raza. Later Anwar Majeed and his son AG Majeed of the Omni Group were also arrested. The FIA told the SC that money laundering of Rs37 billion had been done through 29 bank accounts of seven companies.
The FIA prepared lists of big contracting firms associated with the Sindh government which had transferred billions of rupees into the accounts, the fictitious companies in whose names the accounts were opened and the influential people and groups that received money from these companies.