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September 30, 2018

Billions found in falooda vendor’s bank account


September 30, 2018

Becoming a billionaire overnight is a wish that all struggling people arguably have. Abdul Qadir, a street falooda vendor, however, has experienced the dream come true rather uncomfortably as he has been on the radar of investigation agencies since the discovery of his ‘unknown wealth’.

A hefty Rs2.25 billion was discovered in a bank account in Qadir’s name and he became worrisome all at once as the money under discussion is being linked with one of the biggest money laundering scams of the country, in which former president of the country Asif Ali Zardari has been nominated along with his friends and family.

“I am the world’s number one unlucky person. I have, as they say, billions in my account but I cannot use some of it to at least somewhat improve my state of living,” said visibly frustrated Qadir. “They say it will be gone. At the end, I will still be the same falooda farosh [seller].”

Qadir, who belongs to a lower-middle class, came to know about the existence of a bank account in his name only when he received a letter from the Federal Investigation Agency. “At first, I was in fear when I heard the name of the FIA. Then, I decided to go to the FIA office to check the matter,” said Qadir who lives in a 40-square-yard house.

When the falooda vendor visited the FIA, he was completely flabbergasted to know that he had Rs2.25 billion in a bank account in his name. “I do signatures in Urdu but the signature the FIA officials showed me was in English,” he explained. “I am a poor man who runs a small stall of falooda in my neighbourhood. How can I have billions of rupees? I only visited a bank to open an account when I bought a house,” he said.

Qadir lamented that the FIA investigations are causing damage to his small business. “I have only one job to make both ends meet and that is my stall. How can I earn when I will remain busy for hours every day in questioning and answering session of the FIA,” he said. The falooda vendor suggested to the investigators that they should focus on the person who deposited the hefty amount in his account using his fake identity.

Links with Zardari case

According to sources in the FIA, the deposit of a hefty amount in a bank account in Qadir’s name was unearthed during investigations related to the biggest money laundering scam in Sindh’s history.

“[The discovery] is a part of our investigations pertaining to the money laundering case involving the Omni group,” a senior FIA official claimed. “There are many persons like Abdul Qadir who do not know about existence of accounts in their names with hefty amounts,” he said, adding that the investigators have found dozens of such accounts opened in the names of people belonging to the lower strata – mostly labourers.

The official claimed that there are over 500 such accounts in the country and the investigators are tracing them.

A joint investigation team, formed by the Supreme Court, has been inquiring into the money laundering of Rs35 billion through fake bank accounts in the first week of September. FIA Additional Director General Ehsan Sadiq is heading the team while Tax Commissioner Imran Lateef, State Bank of Pakistan’s Majid Hussain, Inter-Services Intelligence’s Brigadier Shahid Pervaiz, National Accountability Bureau’s Noman Aslam and Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s Muhammad Afzal are the other members of the team. The apex court has been hearing a suo motu case regarding a 2015 inquiry into suspicious transactions through 29 ‘benami’ accounts of various banks.

Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur have been nominated in the case along with former Summit Bank president Hussain Lawai, Omni Group of Companies chairperson Khawaja Anwar Majeed and his son, and others. Lawai, Majeed and his son are already in the FIA’s custody while Zardari and Talpur have also been interrogated by the agency.

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