Bilawal summoned in money laundering case

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) speaks during an interview with Reuters in District Thatta, Pakistan, July 2, 2018. (REUTERS/File)
Updated 25 November 2018
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Bilawal summoned in money laundering case

  • Fake transactions of PKR35 bn run through fake accounts
  • High-end Dubai properties traced back to opposition figures

ISLAMABAD: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has been summoned by a team probing fake transactions of PKR35 billion, officials confirmed to the Arab News Sunday.
It is the first time that Bilawal, chair of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party, has been summoned by the six-member Joint Investigation Team.
The JIT has requested his presence on November 28. His father and former president Asif Ali Zardari has been summoned for November 29.
“Bilawal Bhutto is shareholder and director of Zardari Group Private Limited Company and it is linked to the fake bank accounts. “That’s why he has been summoned to appear before the JIT,” Mohammad Ali, assistant director of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), said.
All the evidence and material collected during the investigations into the fake bank accounts case have been handed over to the JIT for further inquiry. 
“I am not aware of the fact if the JIT has found any new evidence linked to the case,” he added.
Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and several of their business associates are being probed as part of a 2015 case about money laundering through fake bank accounts. 
The FIA unearthed fake transactions of PKR35 billion run through 29 fake bank accounts and assets tracing back to Pakistan’s Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs), allegedly kept by frontmen.
The FIA has issued notices to two men, Hamid Samo and Ghulam Abbas Zardari, local media reported. 
Samo owns four high-end properties in a prominent area of Dubai and declared his assets to be worth PKR650 million in June, under the government’s tax amnesty scheme. FIA officials say Samo’s permanent address, on his national identity card, is that of Talpur’s in Karachi.
Local media reported FIA officials as saying that Ghulam Abbasi Zardari owns property in Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, worth PKR70 million with a general power of attorney entrusted to Talpur. 
The FIA has already arrested some friends and business partners of the former president in connection with the case. They include Omni Group chairman Anwar Majeed, his son Abdul Ghani Majeed and former chairman of the Pakistan Stock Exchange Hussain Lawai. 
Zardari and Talpur have obtained bail from the banking court.
Farhatullah Babar, PPP secretary general, said the case against the party’s leadership was politically motivated and fabricated.
“Even if Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is summoned by the court, it will be of no issue,” he told Arab News.
“We have our defense in the courts and will respond to summons. However (we) don’t want to respond to persistent and vicious media trial (of the leadership),” he added. 
The PPP is a major opposition party in the National Assembly and Senate. It is in power for the third time in Sindh province since 2008.
Political analysts said the ongoing investigation into fake bank accounts was hurting the party leadership’s reputation.
“Unfortunately the PPP leadership has so far failed to present a robust rebuttal to reports of its involvement in money laundering and fake bank accounts,” Professor Tahir Malik told Arab News.
“The PPP will have to pay heavy political costs if its leadership fails to prove its innocence in the case,” he added.


Australian judge sentences ‘mass murderer’ to life in prison

Updated 32 min 8 sec ago
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Australian judge sentences ‘mass murderer’ to life in prison

  • James Gargasoulas was in a drug-induced psychosis in January 2017 when he killed the six people and injured dozens more
  • His victims included a 3-month-old baby who was thrown 60 meters (200 feet) from his stroller and a 10-year-old girl.

MELBOURNE, Australia: A man who drove a stolen car into lunchtime crowds in downtown Melbourne and killed six people was sentenced to life imprisonment Friday in what the judge described as “one of the worst examples of mass murder in Australian history.”
James Gargasoulas, 29, showed little emotion when sentenced in Victoria state’s Supreme Court. Under the terms of his sentence, he will spend at least 46 years in prison before he’s eligible for parole.
Families of the victims filled the courtroom for Justice Mark Weinberg’s ruling. Gargasoulas was in a drug-induced psychosis in January 2017 when he killed the six people and injured dozens more in the busy Bourke St. Mall.
His victims included a 3-month-old baby who was thrown 60 meters (200 feet) from his stroller and a 10-year-old girl.
“Your actions were both callous and cowardly,” the judge said. “You have shown no genuine remorse.”
The judge described in detail the events of the “terrifying rampage,” noting each victim killed as well as those left with broken bones, head injuries, internal bleeding and other lasting damage.
“You left a trail of destruction,” the judge said. “The horror of what you did has profoundly impacted the lives of those who were present that day.”
Crime Stoppers Victoria ambassador George Halvagis said he thinks Gargasoulas should die in jail.
“He should never, ever, get out of there,” he told reporters after the sentencing.
Grieving relatives earlier told the court of their pain. The brother of Japanese victim Yosuke Kanno, 25, said he will continue suffering until he dies.
In a letter read to the court, Gargasoulas insisted he was not evil and blamed “government oppression” for the murders. He also said he was the Messiah and was acting on the wishes of God on the day of the rampage, but was in a “bad headspace.”
Gargasoulas has treatment-resistant paranoid schizophrenia but was found fit to stand trial. He pleaded not guilty. In November, a jury found him guilty of the six murders and 27 counts of reckless conduct endangering life.
He had been using drugs and committing crimes in the weeks before the attack and was on bail. The judge noted he was meant to face court on the day of the massacre. Police had tailed the stolen Holden Commodore for some of its journey into downtown Melbourne before the rampage.
“Your crimes have had a shattering effect on countless lives,” Weinberg said.
Gargasoulas will be eligible to apply for release in 2063, when he’s 73.