KARACHI: A banking court on Monday extended the interim bail of former president and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur until January 23 in the fake accounts case.
The siblings are accused of illegally channeling funds through the fake accounts in connivance with the chief executive officers of major banks.
Both PPP leaders appeared in court for the hearing of the case amid tight security.
A racket ensued at the premises of the banking court when security officials refused to let PPP supporters enter the courtroom after Zardari and Talpur had made their way inside.
When asked to order the FIA to file its final charge sheet in the case, the judge said that the SC had halted proceedings in the banking court since it is [currently hearing a similar case].
The hearing was adjourned until January 23.
On December 21, the court had extended their pre-arrest bail till January 7 after the FIA had informed the court that a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the case had submitted its report in the Supreme Court and a decision was yet to be made.
However, Zardari’s counsel Farooq H Naek had said that a final challan should be submitted to progress into the case, which the FIA has not yet submitted to the court.
FAKE ACCOUNTS CASE:
The apex court had constituted a JIT to probe the case after it took a suo motu notice over delay probe into the scam pending since 2015.
Several prominent individuals, including Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, former Summit Bank president Hussain Lawai and Omni Group’s Anwar Majeed, have been nominated in the case.
Property tycoon Malik Riaz, his son-in-law Zain, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari have also been included in the probe.
The JIT investigating the matter told the SC that a close nexus had been found between a troika of the Zardari Group, Omni Group and Bahria Town. The JIT report revealed that at least 29 bank accounts identified as fake had been used for money laundering of Rs42 billion.
In the fresh report, the JIT contended that prima facie evidence brought to the record during investigations clearly indicated that the Zardari and Omni groups, which started with a paid-up capital of Rs600 in 1981 and Rs6,000 in 2001, respectively, had amassed assets through misappropriation of loans, government funds, kickbacks and proceeds of crime.
The evidence suggested, it said, that the groups had a history of laundering their illegal proceeds abroad through illegal channels of Hundi and Hawala.
The report highlighted that the International Business and Shopping Centre (IBSC) project identified by the JIT to be a “Benami” project of Asif Zardari held in the name of his then frontman Iqbal Memon was frozen in 1998.
Later when Iqbal Memon got exposed and left the country for Canada, the property changed hands in 2000 through Nasir Jamal’s AR Developers and in 2008 was held by Zardari, this time through Park Lane Pvt Ltd.
The report requested the apex court to order the freezing of the assets of both groups held through a different subsidiary and front companies and those held in the name of their directors, pending the final adjudication by the accountability courts, lest the “money laundering cartel” shift its assets abroad.
Similarly, Plots C5 and 6, Clifton, Karachi, where Bahria Icon Towers have been constructed, were identified and frozen in 1998 as “Benami” project of Asif Zardari held in the name of Galaxy Construction owned by his then frontman Saleem Akhter.
This property again come back to be held by Zardari through Galaxy Construction and is now owned by his present front-man Dr Dinshaw Hoshang Ankleseria.
The JIT had recommended that the apex court should also order the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) not to change the ownership through the change of directors of any of the companies holding the assets in question.
The report also mentioned different assets owned by the Zardari Group like Opal 225 Saddar, Karachi, IBSC Saddar of Park Lane, different farmhouses in Tando Allahyar and Nawabshah, a set of some houses in Clifton called Bilawal House, agricultural land, different properties owned by Faryal Talpur, different vehicles of Asif Zardari that belonged to Tosha Khana, including bulletproof vehicles BMW 760, Lexus 570 and Mitsubishi SUV, and assets in foreign countries known to be held by Asif Zardari and Faryal Talpur.
Likewise, the assets owned by the Omni Group and its directors included 16 sugar mills in different districts of Sindh, 19 power generation companies, agriculture farms, real estate and agriculture land, vehicles and bank accounts, the report said.
In its first report, the JIT had mentioned a transfer of Rs357 million from 12 fake accounts into the accounts of Ms Parthenon. It transpired that Ms Parthenon was a front company of M/s Park Lane since it had no independent business of its own when it entered into a joint venture with Park Lane.