ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday submitted details of its ongoing investigation against former president Asif Ali Zardari in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and established his role in at least eight cases pertaining to money laundering through fictitious bank accounts.
The development was revealed in a report submitted by NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzzaffar Ahmed Khan and was also sent to Zardari’s defence team.
The former president had requested the high court to seek details of the number of cases against him. He wanted the details to be prepared for pre-emptive measures fearing arrest.
The anti-graft watchdog is conducting investigations in pursuance of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the fake accounts case wherein it forwarded the joint investigation team (JIT) report with directions to investigate and file references.
PPP lawmaker Faryal Talpur, Omni Group’s Anwar Majeed and his sons, and former Pakistan Stock Exchange chairperson Hussain Lawai are among others being investigated in the case.
Fake accounts case: IHC grants Zardari, Talpur pre-arrest bails
In the report, NAB listed down at least eight cases where Zardari’s link had been established. According to the report, at least 22 inquiries and three investigations are underway while three references have been filed in the fake accounts case.
The bureau outlined 11 petitions seeking pre-arrest bail and information in the State vs Hussain Lawai case, two pre-arrest and one post-arrest bail petition in the State vs Muhammad Hussain Syed case, four pre-arrest bail applications in the State vs Khawaja Abdul Ghani Majeed case, and four pre-arrest and one post-arrest bail petitions in the State vs Ejaz Ahmed Khan case. It also listed down another 12 writ petitions filed in different courts.
A total of 35 petitions have been filed in the fake accounts case at the moment, the report said.
The bureau, in its report, has made it clear that the number of inquiries and investigation may vary as the probe is on-going.
Read the report here.
Names of Zardari, Talpur struck off no-fly list
The fake accounts case history
Information regarding the fake accounts came to the fore when an intelligence agency picked up a prominent money changer in an unrelated case. In December 2015, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) began a discreet investigation into certain bank accounts through which multi-billion rupee transactions have been made.
Investigators have so far identified 29 accounts which received payments, totaling at least Rs35 billion. The probe was initially shelved but resumed almost a year and a half later with FIA’s State Bank circle initiating a formal inquiry in January 2018. By June, the FIA had several high-profile names on its list but was unable to make headway–for several reasons.
It was at his point that the Supreme Court intervened and then chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice of the ‘slow progress’ in the money-laundering case. In July, Zardari’s close aides Hussain Lawai, Taha Raza and two others were arrested. Subsequently, the first case was registered in the mega-corruption scandal.
The then chief justice ordered the formation of a joint investigation team to quicken the pace of the investigation. The JIT identified 11,500 bank accounts and 924 account holders at the start of their investigation. After the JIT report, the names of 172 individuals were placed on the no-fly list by the interior ministry.
Fake accounts case: Sindh CM Murad to appear before JIT today
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.