After failing to find former Employees’ Old Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) chairman Zafar Gondal at his home, the Federal Investigation Agency has approached Interpol for the arrest of the main accused in the Rs44 billion EOBI scandal.
Talking to the Express Investigation Cell (EIC) via telephone from Karachi, FIA Director and Chief Investigator M Maalik said the agency has sent a formal request to Interpol for the arrest of Zafar.
“Seeking Interpol’s help is part of the FIA’s strategy to give Zafar zero chance to prevent his arrest in connection with the EOBI scandal,” he said.
According to Maalik, the FIA Karachi office summoned Zafar on June 24, but he never turned up fearing his arrest. “Since then, his whereabouts are unknown.”
Ruling out that the former EOBI chairman could use his political connections to dodge airport and immigration authorities and leave the country, the FIA director did admit it was possible Zafar may have left the country through unofficial channels, such as via Afghanistan.
In the past, former Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority chairman Tauqir Sadiq, wanted in another Rs84 billion fraud case, had evaded arrest by fleeing from Pakistan through Afghanistan. Zafar Gondal is the younger brother of PPP stalwart Nazar Gondal. His kinship helped him secure the lucrative post of EOBI chairman.
During his tenure Zafar allegedly struck at least two dozen shady deals. He allegedly connived with other EOBI officials in over-evaluating properties of select individuals and parties, and purchased them for the EOBI on exorbitant rates. The deals later established him as the central figure in the Rs44 billion EOBI scam.
EOBI director general (investment) Wahid Khurshid, one of the top figures arrested in connection with the EOBI scam, reportedly told FIA investigators that Zafar influenced him and other senior officials into buying properties in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad at exorbitant rates. Khurshid was arrested along with 10 other EOBI officials on the Supreme Court orders. Upon arrest, he made some ‘stunning’ revelations about the scam, according to FIA sources. For this reason, he is likely to be shifted to Islamabad from Karachi in a couple of days.
His claims have been confirmed by NESPAK, which in its evaluation report submitted to the FIA noted that Zafar and his associate Asim Bashir, the head of EOBI sub-division Prima Co, purchased a five acre property in Karachi from a certain Asad for Rs2 billion in 2012, when its actual value was not more than Rs700 million in 2013. Like Zafar, Bashir too is related to an important PPP leader and formal federal minister – ties which helped him secure his position in the EOBI. Following the FIA’s crackdown on the EOBI officials involved in corrupt practices, he too has gone underground.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2013.