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August 29, 2018

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Money-laundering case: FIA recommends formation of JIT

ISLAMABAD: The FIA on Tuesday recommended the formation of a joint investigation team (JIT) for probe into a money-laundering and fake accounts case, allegedly involving former president Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur.

The suggestion was made as a three-member Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umer Ata Bandial and Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, resumed hearing into a suo moto case regarding an investigation into the fake transactions worth billions conducted through several mainstream banks via ‘benami’ accounts.

Zardari, Faryal and others are respondents in the instant matter being investigated by the FIA for using fake accounts and their alleged involvement in fraudulent bank transactions to the tune of Rs35 billion. The agency the other day had recorded their statements at the FIA headquarters in the federal capital.

In pursuance of the earlier orders, DG FIA Bashir Memon submitted a detailed report before the court regarding the case. During the hearing, an assistant of Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, counsel for Zardari, sought an adjournment due to his engagement in the process of election for the president of Pakistan, saying he would be available on September 5.

The chief justice asked the law officer if any arrest had been made in the instant case to which Deputy Attorney General Sohail Mahmood informed the court that two accused Omni Group Chairman Anwar Majeed and his son Abdul Ghani Majeed had been arrested. He added that the names of other three accused were placed on the Exit Control List (ECL).

The deputy attorney general said the hearing was fixed to discuss the formation of a JIT, adding that it was a prerogative of the apex court to constitute the JIT or not.

However, Memon recommended the formation of a seven-member JIT to probe the matter and said the team should comprise representatives from the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR), State Bank of Pakistan, Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), National Accountability Bureau (NAB), FIA as well as members from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI).

On a court query, Sohail submitted that Zardari was on protective bail until September 3 and Faryal Talpur on pre-arrest bail until September 4. During the hearing, the Omni Group counsel, Shahid Hamid, told the bench that he had prepared a written response to the request for the formation of a JIT. However, he said he traveled to Islamabad through a PIA flight and his luggage was taken to Lahore.

Shahid said he should be allowed to meet his client Abdul Ghani Majeed, who was severely ill, but the court rejected his request, asking him that instead of meeting, he should make arrangements for his medical treatment. Later, the court adjourned further hearing until September 5.

Meanwhile, the FIA, in its detailed report submitted before the court, revealed that its Anti-Corruption Circle launched an inquiry in 2015 on a source report, alleging suspicious fake bank accounts and massive inter and intra-bank transactions in four benami accounts. The transactions did not match with the profiles of accounts holders to have acted as instruments for parking illegal money, it added.

The FIA further submitted that Anwar and Abdul Ghani — the former a close confidante of Zardari — had been found to be owners of a Dubai-based foreign firm, KMA Crown.

The FIA would formally request the government of the United Arab Emirates to investigate KMA Crown, says the report, adding that the UAE government will be approached through proper channels to ascertain the owners and directors of the said company. It is suspected that these companies are used by Haji Haroon for transfer of funds, the FIA added in its report.

It further informed the court that Anwar and Abdul Ghani were accused of having deposited Rs3.12 billion and withdrawn Rs4.01 billion from 29 accounts. Although, both the accused admitted transactions in fake accounts however, they failed to produce any evidence in their defence regarding the use and purpose of said heavy amounts transacted in the said accounts.

The report further revealed that during the investigation, two new companies of the Omni Group – Anod Gas Limited, which has transaction with a fake account Umair Associates, and Platium LPG – came to the surface.

The FIA report shows that its officials had also raided the Khoski Sugar Mills, Badin, after receiving information regarding the presence of important record.

A major portion of the record had been torched before the raid, the FIA said, but officials still managed to recover some samples. It was further revealed during the raid, 27 hard disks had been recovered from the sugar mill along with seven Kalashnikovs and four semi-automatic rifles.

The court was informed that the record from cane commissioner for liabilities against the sugarcane growers was requisitioned, which had been received and was under scrutiny,

The FIA further submitted that the FBR was requested to provide record related to the Omni Group of Companies’ tax returns, which is awaited.

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