KARACHI: A banking court on Wednesday extended the interim bail of former president and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Coo-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur in the fake accounts case till February 14.
The banking court, however, deferred a decision on the bail plea of Omni Group Chairman Anwar Majeed and his son Abdul Ghani Majeed till February 6.
Zardari and Talpur attended the hearing along with PPP leaders and activists.
The Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) prosecutor said the case was being transferred to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and urged the court to halt proceedings on the bail-related requests.
The hearing saw a terse exchange between the judge and FIA prosecutor, as the judge expressed displeasure over the absence of the agency’s investigation officer and its failure to submit case records.
Former chairman of the Pakistan Stock Exchange Hussain Lawai, Summit Bank’s Taha Raza, Anwar Majeed and Abdul Ghani Majeed are in custody over charges of facilitating money laundering – to the tune of over Rs4 billion – through at least 29 fake bank accounts.
Zardari, Talpur and 16 other bankers and businessmen have also been booked in the same case.
FAKE ACCOUNTS SAGA:
In December 2015, the FIA began a discreet investigation into certain bank accounts through which multi-billion rupee transactions have been made.
According to FIA sources, information regarding the fake accounts came to the fore when an intelligence agency picked up a prominent money changer in an unrelated case.
As the monitoring and investigation of these suspicious accounts continued, it surfaced that five of these accounts in two banks – the Sindh Bank and Summit Bank – had been used for transactions worth around Rs15 billion.
Investigation showed the accounts were operated by fake companies. Funds were credited into these accounts from contractors with multi-billion rupee contracts with the Sindh government.
The money was found to have been transferred to accounts of companies owned and operated by the Omni Group, whose chairperson, Anwar Majeed, is a close aide of Zardari. Another beneficiary was Nasir Lootah, the chairperson of Summit Bank.
The probe, however, was shelved. It resumed almost a year and a half later. FIA’s State Bank circle initiated a formal inquiry in January, 2018.
By June, the FIA had several high-profile names on its list but was unable to make headway – for several reasons. It was at his point that the Supreme Court intervened. Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice of the ‘slow progress’ in the money laundering case.
In July, Zardari’s close aide Hussain Lawai and two other suspects were arrested. Subsequently, the first case was registered in the mega-corruption scandal.
The FIA submitted its report to the apex court on July 8 which revealed a web of companies and accounts that were being used to transfer billions of rupees.
In all, 29 accounts were identified that received payments, totaling at least Rs35 billion.
In August, Anwar Majeed was arrested along with son Abdul Ghani Majeed when they returned to the country on being summoned by the apex court. They are now on judicial remand.
Meanwhile, Asif Ali Zardari and Faryal Talpur have appeared before the investigators and have since secured interim bail from the banking court.
The last hearing of the case was on December 21, when the duo got their fourth extension in the bail till January 7.