Sindh CM records statement before NAB in fake accounts case

Murad Ali Shah's name appeared in the JIT on fake accounts presented before the Supreme Court

Our Correspondent March 25, 2019
Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah. PHOTO: PPP/ TWITTER

ISLAMABAD: Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah recorded his statement at the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) headquarters in Islamabad on Monday, in a case pertaining to money laundering of billions through fake accounts.

Asif Ali Zardari, Faryal Talpur, Omni Group’s Anwar Majeed and his son Abdul Ghani Majeed, former Pakistan Stock Exchange chairperson Lawai, Summit Bank Senior Vice-President Taha Raza are among those being investigated by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the anti-graft watchdog separately.

The matter is also being heard by the Supreme Court. Amid complaints from the FIA and barbs flying in the top court, former CJP Nisar had ordered the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to quicken the pace of the investigation. Murad's name appeared in the JIT report alongside Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

The Sindh chief minister was quizzed for one hour and thirty minutes.

Speaking to the media after recording statement, Murad lamented that the JIT report was based on lies. “The report is flawed,” he said. “But I have nothing to hide and I have told NAB that I will cooperate.”

"I think the case is very weak. The federal government's actions after the JIT was announced, were premptive."

The PPP leader also expressed dismay at the transfer of case from Karachi to Islamabad. “We have already raised jurisdiction issues. Our experience with Rawalpindi has not been great.”

“PPP leaders and I flew to the federal capital on our own expenses. When we arrived here, we were escorted by the police. If the hearing had been in Karachi, I would have quietly gone and recorded the statement.”

The case was transferred to Islamabad after a Karachi banking court accepted the anti-graft watchdog's transfer request. The bureau filed the transfer appeal following the Supreme Court’s decision in the case wherein the joint investigation team (JIT) report and evidence collected was transmitted to the bureau for further investigations. The case is being heard by accountability court Judge Muhammad Arshad Malik.

Top court orders Bilawal, Shah’s names off ECL

The JIT report in a nutshell

According to the report, the JIT identified 11,500 bank accounts and 924 account holders at the start of their investigation.

Its experts generated 59 Suspected Transaction Reports (STR) and 24,500 Cash Transaction Reports. That means the transactions were flagged as suspicious.

Due to the high quantum of transactions, the JIT decided on a threshold of Rs10million “to track, follow and minutely investigate the flow of funds beyond the immediate counterparties and determine the source of funds and ultimate beneficiaries.”

It questioned 767 individuals, including Zardari and Talpur, while Bilawal submitted written responses.

It has since had the names of 147 individuals placed on the Provisional National Identification List, which would allow authorities to identify if those individuals try to enter or exit the country through an airport. After the report was submitted to the SC, the names of 172 individuals have been placed on the no-fly list by the interior ministry on the JIT’s request.

The investigations have focused on 32 accounts of 11 fake entities. The first account, belonging to M/S Lucky Enterprises, opened in January 2010 and remained active till January 2017. It was used for 13,809 transactions.

Damning JIT report indicts Zardari, Omni groups

The investigation uncovered that the 11 sole proprietorship entities were registered in the names of low-level employees of the Omni Group, as well as random individuals including a deceased person. All the accounts were operated by Omni Group executives.

A thorough review of the JIT report shows that representatives of State Bank and Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) played a vital role in the investigation and preparation of the final report and recommendations.

Read the full text of the JIT report here