KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday rejected the appeals against the transfer of money laundering case investigation from Karachi to Rawalpindi.
Former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, Abdul Gani Majeed, Anwar Majeed and Hussain Lowai had appealed against the banking court's ruling in the SHC.
The two-member bench headed by Chief Justice Sindh High Court Justice Omer Sial heard the pleas.
Zardari's counsel Farooq H. Naek submitted arguments to NAB’s reply in the last hearing terming the accusations against his client as fraud and treacherous.
"The Supreme Court had only given orders for further investigation in the case," Naek insisted, arguing there was no reason to shift the case too.
To this, the court asked if the orders had not directly been given by the Supreme Court, did the NAB chairman not have the power to request a case to be moved from one court to the other.
The defence counsel maintained that the names of Asif Zardari and Faryal Talpur had been mentioned as accused on the run in the interim challan. NAB argued that the accused had caused loss to the national treasure.
CJ SHC remarked that the JIT had mentioned complete details of money transfer and money laundering. FIA's case 04/18 was also a part of the same JIT report.
The defending lawyer insisted that a NAB court does not have the power to hear the case. He further added that the NAB chairman should have waited for a final challan to be submitted in court (before handing in the application to move the case).
The lawyer for Hussain Lawai and Taha Raza, Shoukat Hayat, in his concluding arguments said that "this was the first case in history to have been shifted from one province to another".
"A trial court does not hold the power to transfer a case from one province to another," he said, adding that the NAB chairman also does not hold this right.
The counsel for Anwar Majeed and Abdul Ghani Majeed, Barrister Jamshed Malik, said that had the Supreme Court given clear orders for the case's transfer, the NAB chairman would not have had to write to the court requesting it.
"The investigation officer in the case would simply have come in and said that the top court has ordered for the case to be transferred," he added.
"The banking court overstepped its powers when it transferred the case," Malik insisted.
However, the court was not moved, and once the defence's arguments concluded, dismissing all the appeals, SHC allowed the transfer of the case from Karachi to Rawalpindi's accountability court.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had named Zardari, Talpur, Omni Group chairman Anwar Majeed, his sons and over 10 others as suspects in an interim charge sheet filed in the banking court in August last year for alleged money laundering of over Rs4 billion after 29 fake bank accounts were found opened in three banks.
On March 15, 2019, a banking court had granted the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) its request to transfer the fake bank accounts case to the accountability court of Rawalpindi for trial.
The orders had been given after the Supreme Court — which had taken suo motu notice of the case and constituted a JIT to probe the matter — referred the matter to NAB to launch its probe independently and complete it within two months.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari repeated his party’s stance on the transfer of fake accounts case from Karachi to Rawalpindi and stressed that the rule of law should be similar for all citizens.
Addressing a press conference in Larkana, the PPP chairperson said that the Bhutto family "had always been persecuted in Rawalpindi" as he demanded that the probe be brought back to Sindh.
"Investigation is held [in the place] where the crime has been committed. This is our legal objection and we will continue to raise it on all platforms," he said.
"An exception is being created for the Bhuttos that their trials will always be held in Pindi," he said. "The same law should apply to all Pakistanis. This is why we say that revenge is being exacted under the guise of accountability," Bilawal noted.