ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday granted bail to Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari in two call-up notices regarding to money laundering through fake accounts.
PPP’s top leadership, Omni Group’s Anwar Majeed and his son Abdul Ghani Majeed, former Pakistan Stock Exchange chairperson Hussain Lawai, Summit Bank Senior Vice-President Taha Raza are among those being investigated in cases related to money laundering through fictitious bank accounts. The matter is also being heard by the Supreme Court.
A two-member bench comprising Justice Mohsin Kiyani and Justice Amir Farooq granted interim bail to the former president till May 22 against surety bonds of Rs0.5 million each. It also approved extension pleas filed by Zardari and sister Faryal Talpur.
During the hearing, Advocate Farooq H Naek lamented that his clients kept receiving call-up notices.
A total of nine applications were filed by the PPP counsel - seven by Zardari and two by Talpur. Five out of the seven petitions filed by Zardari sought extension in pre-arrest bails while the other two were on new call-up notices. Both of Talpur's applications sought extension in pre-arrest bail.
The bench's decision on pleas:
May 29 in mega money laundering case
May 30 in M/S Harish & Company case
June 12 in Park Lane Company case
June 20 in case pertaining to bulletproof cars
June 11 and June 18 in two other inquiries.
Observing the increasing number of cases, Justice Farooq directed authorities to furnish a list in chronological order.
When asked to give a time-frame for replies on bail requests, NAB prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Ahmad Khan said the anti-graft watchdog will provide written reply only in inquiries it deemed merited arrest warrants.
Fake accounts case: Zardari granted pre-arrest bail till May 15
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.
Since a banking court in Karachi accepted NAB’s request to transfer the money laundering case to Islamabad, Zardari has received pre-arrest bail in five call-up notices while Talpur has received in two.
On May 14, the anti-corruption unit furnished details of inquiries, investigations and references in the fake accounts case. In the report, NAB listed down at least eight cases where Zardari’s link had been established. It further added that 22 inquiries and three investigations are underway while three references have been filed.
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.
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