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)
  • 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.