–Accountability watchdog asks court to cancel former president’s bail
–Accuses PPP leader of non-cooperation, says he ‘fraudulently obtained’ Rs1.5bn in loans for Park Lane company
ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Friday told the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that former president Asif Ali Zardari could “tamper” with documents if allowed to remain free, that’s why it was opposed to the high court’s decision of awarding bail to the ex-president.
On Wednesday, the high court granted bail to Asif Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur till April 29 and directed the NAB to submit a reply in the case by April 13, in addition to the details of ongoing and pending inquiries against the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader.
NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi had informed the court that the bureau’s reply was ready and would be submitted in a couple of days.
In its formal reply submitted to the court on Friday, the accountability watchdog explained its opposition to bail, saying that the former president “may tamper records” if not taken into custody. Furthermore, it accused Zardari of not cooperating with the investigation team.
NAB claimed Zardari fraudulently obtained Rs1.5 billion in loans for his Park Lane company through other firms.
In connivance with former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, the former president had illegally obtained three luxury bullet-proof cars, two BMWs and one Toyota Lexus from the toshakhana (the state gift repository), which were gifted by the governments of UAE and Libya, the bureau alleged.
It went on to claim that Zardari paid Rs37.16m as duty/tax on the vehicles through cheques issued from the fake accounts in question.
The watchdog claimed Zardari deliberately misled the court regarding his bail petition and did not deserve any leniency on the matter.
“NAB has collected documentary evidence in accordance with the law,” the bureau said, adding the petitioner remained at influential positions; therefore, “tampering of evidence on his part” cannot be ruled out.
FAKE ACCOUNTS CASE:
In December 2015, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) began a discreet investigation into certain bank accounts through which multi-billion rupee transactions had 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 2018, 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 (SC) intervened. The then chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice of the ‘slow progress’ in the money laundering case.
In July the same year, Zardari’s close aides; Hussain Lawai, Taha Raza and two others 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, totalling at least Rs35 billion.
In August 2018, Omni Group chief 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.