Pakistan’s ex-president Asif Zardari named in money-laundering case

Former Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari listens to his son and chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (unseen) during the party manifesto presentation for the forthcoming general election during a press conference in Islamabad on June 28, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 08 July 2018
0

Pakistan’s ex-president Asif Zardari named in money-laundering case

  • The inclusion of former president’s name, Zardari, in the case signifies pre-poll rigging, says his spokesperson, Farhatullah Babar
  • Pakistan People’s Party’s election campaign has been spearheaded by Zardari’s son, Bilawal Bhutto

KARACHI: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Saturday obtained the remand of Hussain Lawai, Chairman Central Depository Company (CDC) and a close aide of Pakistan’s former president, Asif Ali Zardari, after registering a case against him and others for using a fake account to launder Rs35 billion ($288 million).
According to a case registered by FIA’s Banking Circle Karachi, the former president and leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, Asif Ali Zardari, and his sister, Faryal Talpur, are among 13 people who benefited from the arrangement.
The police first investigation report (FIR) says that M/S Zardari Group (Asif Ali Zardari, Faryal Talpur, etc) got Rs15,000,000 and were among the beneficiaries of the transaction trail of fake bank accounts maintained by Omni Group, owned by Anwar Majeed, another close aide of the former president.
Different entities owned by Majeed can be found in the list of depositors and beneficiaries of the fake bank account maintained in the name of a citizen without his approval.
The FIR found that one of the depositors in the fake account turned out to be M/S Bahria Town Karachi project and Zain Malik, who had deposited Rs750,000,000. Both Malik and the spokesperson of his Bahria Town Karachi project did not respond to Arab News’ requests for a comment.
Muhammad Ali Abro, assistant director of FIA’s Karachi Banking Circle, informed the local magistrate that during the inquiry into the suspicious transaction of 29 accounts, it was established that one of them was fraudulently opened in the name of Tariq Sultan by using his national identity card.
“This account was subsequently used to place illegitimate funds for purposes of money-laundering,” reads the FIR, a copy of which is available with Arab News.
According to the FIA, when Sultan denied he had opened the account, the agency started conducting its inquiry and the signatures on bank documents were found to be forged.
The FIA obtained the money trail and interviewed those involving the opening of a fake account, leading the agency to conclude that Hussain Lawai, the then chairman of Summit Bank, had ordered the opening of the fake account for money-laundering purposes. According to the agency, the investigation of another 28 accounts is under way.
Pleading not guilty out of the court of the local magistrate, Lawai told the media he did not know if he was arrested because of Asif Ali Zardari. “Only time will tell why I have been targeted,” he said.
An FIA spokesperson told Arab News that the offense had occurred between 2014 and 2015. However, the Pakistan People’s Party and independent analysts have been questioning the timings of the investigation and arrest for different reasons.
“Asif Ali Zardari has also been maligned in the past. I am really not surprised to see his name in the FIR,” Farhatullah Babar, former president’s spokesperson, told Arab News.
“To me, this seems to be part of pre-polls rigging. Zardari spent 11 years in jail without conviction. The present bubble will also burst into nothingness,” he added.
Senior analyst Mazhar Abbas claimed the appearance of Zardari’s name in the money-laundering case seemed to be an effort to dispel the impression that federal institutions such as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), had only singled out the former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.
“In the foreseeable future, we may also see action against the former president-general, Pervez Musharraf,” Abbas told Arab News.
Fazil Jamili, another Karachi-based political analyst, maintained that the FIR was part of the establishment’s minus-one formula, which, he said, was being applied to all major political parties. “After minus-Altaf and minus-Nawaz, it seems to be Asif Ali Zardari’s turn,” he said.
He added: “This is a significant development and may produce negative election results for PPP since it is likely to damage the party’s credibility.”
As the situation stands, the former president’s son, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, is running his party’s election campaign and addressing public rallies in the provinces of Sindh and Punjab. 

Copy of the FIR by the Federal Investigation Agency that names Pakistan’s former president, Asif Ali Zardari, and his sister in a fake account to launder Rs35 billion.
Copy of the FIR by the Federal Investigation Agency that names Pakistan’s former president, Asif Ali Zardari, and his sister in a fake account to launder Rs35 billion.
Copy of the FIR by the Federal Investigation Agency that names Pakistan’s former president, Asif Ali Zardari, and his sister in a fake account to launder Rs35 billion.

 


UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

Updated 19 June 2019
0

UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

  • The figures are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics
  • UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017

GENEVA: A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the US, against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65 percent increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The US is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the US administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”