Court extends Zardari, Talpur’s bail in money laundering case

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–Malik Riaz’s son-in-law Zain, Anwar Majeed’s sons also get bail extended as FIA demands physical custody of Lawai and Taha Raza

 

KARACHI: The banking court hearing the Rs54 billion mega money laundering case on Tuesday extended for the fourth time the interim pre-arrest bail of former president and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and other suspects in the scandal.

Banking Court Judge Tariq Mehmood Khoso extended the bail of the suspects till December 10.

Both Zardari and Talpur were present in the courtroom while former Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSE) chairman Hussain Lawai and other detained suspects were also produced from prison. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had booked them along with several bankers and businessmen in a case pertaining to money laundering of Rs4.14 billion through ‘fake’ bank accounts in the Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and United Bank Limited.

Zardari and Talpur’s lawyer Farooq H. Naek submitted an application seeking an extension to his clients’ pre-arrest bails — which the court granted.

The court also extended the interim bail of other suspects including Zain Malik, the son-in-law of real estate tycoon Malik Riaz and three sons of Anwar Majeed, till the next hearing.

During the hearing, the FIA investigation officer (IO) submitted an application seeking custody of the detained bankers — Lawai and Taha Raza — submitting that their physical custody was required for further interrogation.

Defence counsel Shaukat Hayat opposed the IO’s plea, arguing that the FIA officials have been using delay tactics. He added that instead of the FIA, the matter is being investigated by a joint investigation team.

The court issued notices to the counsels, directing them to file comments on the FIA application by Nov 16.

Additionally, the IO requested the court to grant him further time to submit the final challan of the case. The judge allowed his plea and directed him to conclude the investigation and submit the challan at the next hearing.

Two detained suspects, Taha Raza and Anwar Majeed, were not produced from the prison, and instead their medical reports were presented before the court.

A prison official informed the court that Raza had got his right knee fractured as he slipped in the prison last month. The suspect has been hospitalised and therefore could not be produced before the court as he was not able to move.

Businessman Majeed, who is widely believed to be a close aide of Zardari, could also not be produced since he had been shifted from jail to a hospital because of his ailment, the court was informed.

While submitting a progress report regarding the non-arrest of five absconding suspects, including UAE national Nasser Abdulla Hussain Lootah, the IO informed the court that the legal procedure to declare them proclaimed offenders has been initiated. The notices that were issued by the court have also been put up outside their houses.

“The concerned authorities have been approached for collecting details about their properties,” the FIA official said. The court directed the IO to accelerate the legal formalities for proclamation of the suspects and submit a report at the next hearing.

The FIA had initially detained Lawai and Raza in July for allegedly facilitating opening of 29 ‘fake’ bank accounts in three private banks. One such bank account maintained in Summit Bank was used for suspicious transactions to several business entities, including M/s Zardari Group, M/s Omni Group and others.

A case was registered against them under Sections 419 (punishment for cheating by personation), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine a forged document) and 109 (abetment) of the Pakistan Penal Code read with Section 5(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 and Sections 3 and 4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010.