–Top court transfers hearing of mega money laundering case to federal capital to prevent accused from influencing probe in Karachi
–Omni Group counsel says client ready to pay back loans to banks in shape of cash and property
— JIT tells court Omni Group has quoted inflated prices of its properties being offered for loan settlement
LAHORE: The Supreme Court (SC) on Saturday ordered for the transfer of Omni Group Chairman Anwar Majeed, his son Abdul Ghani Majeed and former Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) chairman Hussain Lawai to Islamabad.
Majeed, his son Abdul Ghani and Lawai are among the accused in a mega money laundering scam amounting to Rs54 billion.
As a bench of the top court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar heard the case that pertains to money laundering through fake bank accounts at the SC’s Lahore registry, senior officials of the concerned banks, Anwar Majeed’s son Nimr Majeed and others appeared before the bench.
During the hearing, the joint investigation team (JIT) probing the case asked the court to transfer the case out of Karachi. Majeed’s lawyer requested that the case not be moved out of the city.
But the top judge did not concede and said that the accused have influence in Karachi, which will affect the court proceedings: “They should be shifted to Islamabad so an independent investigation can be carried out.”
Justice Ijazul Ahsan commented on the defence counsel’s insistence and commented that his persistence indicates that there are certain motives for having the case heard in Karachi. ordered officials to transfer the accused to Islamabad, asserting that while Anwar Majeed should be taken to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), his son and Lawai are to be imprisoned in Adiala jail.
The chief justice added that Majeed should be taken to Islamabad via an air ambulance if his condition does not allow normal air travel.
Majeed had failed to appear in court earlier this week as his lawyer presented a medical certificate, claiming his client was ill and couldn’t attend the hearing.
Later, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director General Bashir Memon complained to the court about Majeed’s non-cooperation in the investigation.
In response, the top judge said: “The joint investigation team (JIT) probing the case has been given full authority to conduct the investigation and it needs to find out how money earned through kickbacks was whitened.”
‘WILL PAY BACK BANKS IN CASH, PROPERTY’:
Presenting his case, the defence counsel said that the Omni Group owes Rs1.2bn to Silk Bank, Rs1.8bn to Summit Bank, Rs4.98bn to National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) and Rs4.6bn to Sindh Bank, which will be paid in the form of cash and property.
The banks have filed criminal applications under Section 201(a) of the Financial Institutions (Recovery of Finances) Ordinance, 2001, seeking action against the CEOs/directors of sugar mills that are allegedly owned by the Omni Group, accusing them of pilferage of the sugar stocks pledged against the bank loans acquired by them.
Majeed’s lawyer told the court that three banks have accepted the offer for payment of loan in exchange of properties, however, NBP is still reluctant, he added.
“Omni Group is willing to return the National Bank loan in installments,” he said. In response, the chief justice observed that the court did not have any objection to the settlement, but it will not ask the bank to accept the deal.
At this point, NBP’s counsel Naeem Bukhari said that the group must make all payments in cash as they had stolen sugar stock pledged with the bank. A NBP representative also insisted on payment of the loan in cash with a demand for strict adherence to the timeline offered by the group.
At this, the chief justice remarked that the banks could get a criminal case registered against the group management. If the conditions are not fulfilled then the proceedings will start, he added.
The representative further submitted that the properties offered by the Omni Group should be pledged to the bank as mortgage and the sale proceed should take place with the permission of the bank.
“The National Bank will receive all cash obtained from the sale and would distribute among the banks as per loan percentage,” he proposed, adding that the bank would act as security agent and lead other banks in the process.
To which, the chief justice observed that all banks should finalise an intrabank agreement for recovery of their loans and submit the same, adding that the National Bank would be the lead bank.
As the hearing proceeded, Memon told the court that Omni Group is quoting prices that are higher than the market value. The top judge then ordered that heads of all banks should present affidavits on property prices in court, adding that the court will take action if payments are not cleared by then.
Meanwhile, the counsel of missing persons told the court that two witnesses who appeared before the JIT in connection with the case are missing.
Justice Nisar replied: “The Sindh chief minister or his boss should be informed and they should recover them. Do you understand what I am saying?”
The case was initially registered in 2015 against former PSX chairman Hussain Lawai, who is widely believed to be close to former president Zardari.
In July, Lawai was arrested in connection with the probe along with Anwar Majeed, and his son, Abdul Ghani Majeed, was also arrested by the FIA. Lawai, Majeed and his son remain under custody for interrogation.
Investigations so far have revealed that several ‘benaami’ accounts at some private banks were opened in 2013, 2014 and 2015 from where transactions worth billions of rupees were made.
The amount, according to the FIA, is said to be black money gathered from various kickbacks, commissions and bribes.