Sunday June 04, 2023

Court throws out FIA case against Umar Farooq Zahoor after four years

Zahoor has claimed that in June 2020, his former wife conspired to file bogus cases of money-laundering and kidnapping against him

February 26, 2023
Umar Farooq Zahoor. Photo provided by the reporter
Umar Farooq Zahoor. Photo provided by the reporter

LONDON/DUBAI: A Lahore judicial magistrate has ruled that the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) case against businessmen and Liberia’s Ambassador at Large, Umar Farooq Zahoor, Sadaf Naz, and Muhammad Zubair, should not have been registered in Lahore in the first place.

Ghulam Murtaza Virk, the judicial magistrate under Section 30 of the Pakistan Penal Code, said in his order that the alleged kidnapping of teens Zainab and Zuneira took place in Karachi around 14 years ago, according to the prosecution. Therefore, the proper forum for the prosecution of the case should be Karachi, not Lahore.

“Therefore, this court at Lahore has no jurisdiction to decide this case; hence, the file of this case, along with all the enclosures and evidence, is returned to the prosecution to file it before the proper forum,” the judge said in his order.

Zahoor has claimed that in June 2020, his former wife Sophia Mirza conspired with former accountability minister Shahzad Akbar and FIA’s director (late) Dr. Rizwan to file bogus cases of money-laundering and kidnapping against him to bring the FIA down on him and launch a vengeance campaign. And today’s order of the learned magistrate has vindicated his stance that Akbar has put his authority to wrong use by forcing the FIA to register false cases against him even though the agency lacked jurisdiction.

The magistrate was hearing the case related to the accusation by former model Sophia, who had complained that her former husband Zahoor, with the help of his friends Naz and Zubair, arranged the kidnapping of the couple’s minor daughters to Dubai in September 2009, after their marriage fell apart.

The order notes that as per Naz’s petition, there has been an unexplained delay of over 10 years in registering the FIR in the alleged offence that took place in 2009 in Karachi, and the prosecution has produced nine witnesses but failed to bring any incriminating material to record against the accused. Naz had pleaded that she was dragged into the “fake and fictitious” case without any reason, therefore the case against her should be dismissed.

It’s understood that the case will now be sent to FIA Karachi to complete the remaining investigation after Judge Virk’s ruling.

Zahoor’s lawyer, Rana Rehan, pointed out that this matter was settled a long time ago, in 2013, by the Supreme Court, when Sophia accepted a payment of Rs 10,00,000 from her former husband and settled the case. He pointed to the ruling made by a three-member bench of the apex court, whereby the matter between Sophia and Zahoor was finally disposed of with the observation that money had been paid to the model.

The lawyer added that the initiation of criminal proceedings on a matter already settled by the Supreme Court shows the malfeasance of the complainant.

In June last year, Geo News had revealed after an investigation how Sophia, posing as a concerned Pakistani citizen using the name of Khushbakht Mirza, registered a complaint against Zahoor alleging fraud and money laundering of around Rs 16 billion.

Sophia had called on the FIA to take action against Zahoor “for the sake of Pakistan’s name and to prevent financial crimes against Pakistan,” and the FIA, under the instructions of Akbar, immediately obliged. Two separate cases were registered against Zahoor by the FIA’s Corporate Crime Circle under Dr. Rizwan.

Sophia had falsely accused Zahoor of being involved in gold smuggling, illegally acquiring billions of rupees in fraud from various countries, defaming Pakistan, and defrauding businesses in Pakistan.

Akbar took the matter to the cabinet of former prime minister Imran Khan and received approval for an investigation, but the cabinet was not told that the complainant was the former wife of Zahoor. The cabinet was also not informed that the Supreme Court and a Shariah court in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had already settled the matter of custody of the couple’s daughters.

Immediately after the summary was approved by the federal cabinet, FIA Lahore Chief Dr. Rizwan began action against Zahoor: his name was placed on the exit control list (ECL), non-bailable warrants in one of the FIRs were obtained from the court without fulfilling the legal requirements, and based on said non-bailable warrants, his passport, and CNIC were blacklisted, and red notices were issued through Interpol by the National Crime Bureau (NCB) Pakistan for

Pakistan’s government also contacted the Dubai authorities seeking action against Zahoor, and in the process, the UAE government cooperated with Islamabad and Interpol and placed the names of Zahoor, Zubair, and Sadaf on the lists of wanted people by Pakistan.

Since then, Interpol has dropped the name of Zahoor from its database, and fake cases registered in Pakistan have also been closed after the FIA inquiry found no evidence in the allegations made by Sophia.

Zahoor’s name surfaced a few weeks ago on Pakistan’s national scene when it emerged that he was the owner of the rare Graff watch that Khan had sold in the open market after receiving it from Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Suleman.

The businessman showed the rare watch on television and also produced evidence that the watch was the same one that the former premier had sold. He has said that the watch was sold to him by Farah Gogi, the confidante and close friend of Khan’s wife, Bushra Begum.

Zahoor said Farah was introduced to him first by Akbar in January 2020, who got them to meet. He alleged that later on, the former accountability minister had tried to blackmail him into agreeing to Sophia’s demands, and when he refused, fake cases were registered against him by the FIA to hound him internationally.

Both Akbar and Sophia have accepted that cases against Zahoor were registered during the PTI government but denied other allegations.