Saturday September 23, 2023

Foreign funding probe: Accounts of four PTI employees unearthed

The FIA initially identified four employees of the PTI secretariat, whose personal and salary accounts were used for receiving foreign funding

By APP & News Desk
August 07, 2022
An exterior shot of the FIA headquarters. — Facebook/File
An exterior shot of the FIA headquarters. — Facebook/File

PESHAWAR/KARACHI: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) initially identified four employees of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) secretariat, whose personal and salary accounts were used for receiving foreign funding.

The Agency said funds were received in bank accounts of Muhammad Arshad, Tahir Iqbal, Muhammad Rafique, and Nauman Afzal. These employees said in their statements that they used to give the money received in their accounts to the PTI finance manager. They said they would give signed blank cheques to the finance manager. However, they said they know nothing about sources of funding. They did not know who was depositing funds in their accounts, and where the money withdrawn from their accounts was utilised. The FIA came to know during investigation that besides other accounts, foreign funding was also received in employees’ salary accounts.

On Saturday, the FIA kick-started its countrywide investigation — launched a day earlier — into utilisation of funds from ‘prohibited’ sources by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Earlier, an Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) ruling said that the party secured illegal donations.

Official sources said that an emergency has been declared in the FIA to fast investigate the case and conclude it at the earliest. A total of six inquiries have been opened simultaneously, in major cities, including the federal capital, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and Karachi.

According to FIA authorities, 13 accounts have been identified in which these funds were transferred, and the agency has issued notices to the banks under which these accounts have been operating.

Courts have also directed these banks to submit complete details of the bank accounts to the FIA in order to help the inquiry teams with the investigation.

The probe was launched on a letter, written by PTI’s founding member Akbar S Babar, requesting an investigation against the party for receiving funds through accounts opened in the name of employees.

The investigation agency also summoned former National Assembly speaker and senior PTI leader Asad Qaiser and Punjab Minister Mian Mahmoodur Rashid along with nine others.

On Friday, the FIA had called four employees of the PTI secretariat to investigate money laundering and embezzlement of the funds, and statements of these employees were recorded. PTI Chairman Imran’s personal secretary and the four employees said in their statements that they know nothing about the sources of funding; they did not know who used to deposit funds in their accounts and where those funds were used after withdrawal from their bank accounts.

Confirming that he had received a notice from the FIA, Asad Qaiser wrote on Twitter: “I want to tell the ‘imported’ government that we are not afraid of such filthy tricks.

“The ‘imported’ government should avoid using the national institutions for taking political revenge,” he said, advising them to sow as much as they could reap later.

The FIA Peshawar office has summoned Asad Qaiser on Thursday, August 11 at 2pm.

The notice sent to the former speaker stated that as per the verdict in the Akbar S Babar’s case, Asad Qaiser had two bank accounts and he was associated with the functioning of those two accounts; therefore, he has been asked to appear before the inquiry team to answer questions regarding the details of the bank account.

According to sources, the FIA has formed five investigation committees comprising three members each in different cities, while a committee has been set up at the headquarters for coordination.

Sources said the committees would proceed with the investigations in line with the directions of the ECP; the terms of reference (ToR) have been issued in this regard.

FIA Director-General Mohsin Butt is overseeing all investigations.

In Karachi, the FIA formed a five-member team under Deputy Director Bank Circle Rabia Qureshi and comprising Assistant Director Rauf Sheikh, Inspectors Sabeen Ghauri and Aftab Watoo, and Sub Inspector Rahat Khan.

The committee has been directed to investigate funding companies, individual bank accounts, and all other monetary details, which are to be later shared with the central committee, formed at the headquarters.

The FIA Sindh has also become active and it has issued notices to former Sindh governor Imran Ismael and Seema Zia.

Akbar S Babar formally approached the FIA to initiate a probe against the PTI on Wednesday.

He told FIA that PTI’s financial board in 2011 illegally authorised four employees of the party’s central secretariat to collect donations in their personal accounts from within Pakistan and abroad.

A sum of Rs11.104 million was deposited in the accounts of the PTI employees which was beyond their known sources of income, Akbar Babar said in his letter.

Meanwhile, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb Saturday censured Imran Khan for allegedly trying to sabotage democracy, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and national economy in exchange for the foreign funding, received by the PTI in the last decade.

“A conspiracy project, launched by Imran Khan, was executed in the country through the foreign funds, received by his party during different periods including 2008-13, 2013-18 and 2018-22,” she said while addressing a news conference along with Coordinator to the Prime Minister for Economy and Energy Bilal Azhar Kayani.

She said Imran Khan attempted to weaken the parliamentary system and democracy in 2013 under the project, which came into effect in 2008.

He incited his workers to attack the Supreme Court building, launched a civil disobedience campaign, and made attempts to halt the CPEC by bringing political instability in the country.

“These were the milestones, delivery points and commitments which Imran Khan made to his donors in exchange for the foreign funding,” she said, adding the followers of the PTI’s chief would have to ask from him where the funding was spent.

She said Imran Khan asserted that he made a blunder by approving the appointment of Sikander Sultan Raja as the chief election commissioner, but in reality, the major mistake was committed when Nawaz Sharif was ousted from his office for not taking salary from his son.

Marriyum said it was unfair to compare Imran Khan with Nawaz Sharif who, as prime minister, eliminated terrorism, ensured 6 per cent economic growth, created massive employment opportunities for youth and above all, improved the country’s standing at the international level.

She said the nation needed to look into the reasons behind the “Imran project” under which Kashmir was sold, CPEC projects stopped and the country registered negative economic growth.

Imran Khan, during his government, rendered the youth jobless, created anarchy and political instability and imprisoned the media persons, she added.

The people had to understand that Imran Khan was responsible for the current crises which were created to fulfil the commitments made with the foreign fosters.

She said the so-called truthful and honest Imran Khan had miserably been exposed before the nation after the Election Commission of Pakistan’s verdict in the PTI’s prohibited funding case.

“The party of a foreign agent has been declared a “foreign-aided party” under the Political Party Ordinance, 2002 and the Election Act, 2017,” she remarked.

The minister said Imran Khan was trying to mislead the nation by consistently telling lies over a case that was investigated by the ECP for eight years.

She said the PTI chairman had “knowingly” and “wilfully” received prohibited funding from a number of foreign firms and individuals, which he acknowledged himself by submitting false affidavits in the ECP for five times.

Marriyum said Imran Khan blamed others for corruption and called them thieves, but when his robbery came to the fore, he tried to give it an angle of technicality. He became naive about the funding of his party and termed it a technical matter.

“It is not a technical matter, rather an open and shut case of foreign funding, as no party can receive any aid from a foreign government, individual or firm under the Political Parties Order 2002,” she said, adding the PTI concealed the bank accounts in which funding poured in from abroad.

“This is a matter of misappropriation as Imran Khan used donations for political and personal purposes,” she said, noting that the PTI opened undeclared bank accounts in the name of the party’s secretariat employees.

People, she said, needed to understand that it was not a matter between the PTI and the PMLN, but rather between former premier, the State Bank of Pakistan and the ECP. The case of foreign funding was filed by its own member Akbar S Babar and the PMLN had nothing to do with the matter, she added.

The minister said Imran Khan remained a major hindrance in the foreign funding case’s proceeding as described by the ECP in its decision as “the worst abuse of law had happened”.

She said Imran Khan, who received funds and charity from overseas Pakistanis, for flood relief activities and other natural disasters, spent them for personal and political purposes.

Marriyum said the senior leadership of PTI including Imran Khan were signatories to the funds received by his party in the undeclared bank accounts.

“The money trail of the PTI’s foreign funding and details of the undeclared bank accounts have come to the fore. Imran Khan has been declared a criminal and the veil of ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Ameen’ is removed from his face,” she added.

“Till the day, Imran Khan has not denied that he did not receive money from Romita Shetty (an Indian businesswoman) and Wootton Cricket Limited,” she said, slamming PTI for posting fake interviews of overseas Pakistanis, who claimed themselves as its funders, on its social media accounts.

She dared Imran Khan to post the interview of Arif Naqvi and other foreign nationals and firms’ members who sent dollars, pounds and other currencies as fund to his party.

Arif Naqvi was presented as a front person to conceal real identities of other foreign sources, she added.

PTI received funds from Wootton Cricket Limited, Bristol engineering services and Eplanet Trustees from 2013, she said, adding that the companies set up in the United States included 34 foreign nationals.

She said PTI claimed to open two LLCs abroad including LLC 5975 and LLC 6160. Thirteen foreign nationals and 231 firms had contributed funds in LLC 5975, while 31 foreigners and 120 companies in the other one. There were other companies which were opened by PTI to collect foreign funding. She said funds were received from 31 companies, but Imran was continuously showing ignorance about the prohibited funding. “There was no technicality if the donations were used for political purposes,” she added.

She said PTI had disclosed the names of the front persons who collected the funds from different countries. Their videos were on the record, she added.

Imran Khan committed a crime which was proved by the State Bank of Pakistan and ECP, the minister remarked.

Imran Khan never informed the ECP that he received funds in the accounts of his party secretariat’s employees including Muhammad Arshad, Tahir Iqbal, Muhammad Rafique and Nauman Afzal.

FIA investigation was underway which was being conducted in a transparent way, she added.

She said the funds were also received in the personal accounts of other PTI leaders including Asad Qaiser, Imran Ismail, Shah Farman, Saifullah Niazi and others. In this case, Imran Khan and finance boards’ members were co-signatory of these accounts.

The minister also mentioned the names of some foreign funders including Mukesh Kanda, Charn Jeet Singh, Charles, Michael and others. Ironically, his party continued to receive the funding, but Imran Khan did not know.

She said Imran Khan launched the regime change narrative to cover up his corruption through which Bani Gala was transformed in “Money Gala”.

“Enough is enough, now this drama must come to an end as a foreign agent has been nabbed and the PTI has been declared a foreign-aided party,” she said.

She said it was just a teaser of Imran Khan’s foreign funding and the complete film was yet to release as the ECP had given the decision on Akbar S Babar’s petition who filed a complaint against the funding received by the party till 2013.