ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Monday rejected a petition filed by former president President Asif Ali Zardari and sister Faryal Talpur, seeking extension in the pre-arrest bail in the mega money laundering case.
It is pertinent to note that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has already issued arrest warrants for the former president in the case.
Earlier today, a two-member bench comprising Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani and Justice Amir Farooq reserved verdict on two pre-arrest bail petitions filed by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-chairman Zardari and Sindh legislator Talpur in two cases related to money laundering of billions through fake accounts – the mega money laundering and M/S Harish & Company cases.
Zardari is accused of illegal awarding of a water supply contract to the private company – M/S Harish & Company. The high court disposed off pre-arrest plea in the M/S Harish & Company case after NAB said it had not issued arrest warrants in the case.
The cases are part of the investigations being conducted by NAB in pursuance of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the money laundering of billions through fake accounts case wherein it forwarded the joint investigation team (JIT) report with directions to investigate and file references.
Other suspects include Omni Group’s Anwar Majeed and his son Abdul Ghani Majeed, former Pakistan Stock Exchange chairperson Hussain Lawai, Summit Bank Senior Vice-President Taha Raza.
On May 14, the anti-corruption unit furnished details of inquiries, investigations and references in the fake accounts case. In the report, NAB listed down at least eight cases where Zardari’s link had been established. It further added that 22 inquiries and three investigations are underway while three references have been filed.
The fake accounts saga
Information regarding the fake accounts came to the fore when an intelligence agency picked up a prominent money changer in an unrelated case. In December 2015, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) began a discreet investigation into certain bank accounts through which multi-billion rupee transactions have been made.
The probe was initially shelved but resumed almost a year and a half later with FIA’s State Bank circle initiating 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 and then chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice of the ‘slow progress’ in the money-laundering case. In July, 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 then chief justice ordered the formation of a joint investigation team to quicken the pace of the investigation. The JIT identified 11,500 bank accounts and 924 account holders at the start of their investigation.
The JIT report in a nutshell
According to the report, the JIT identified 11,500 bank accounts and 924 account holders at the start of their investigation.
Its experts generated 59 Suspected Transaction Reports (STR) and 24,500 Cash Transaction Reports. That means the transactions were flagged as suspicious.
Due to the high quantum of transactions, the JIT decided on a threshold of Rs10million “to track, follow and minutely investigate the flow of funds beyond the immediate counterparties and determine the source of funds and ultimate beneficiaries.”
It questioned 767 individuals, including Zardari and Talpur, while Bilawal submitted written responses.