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

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.


Sudan peace talks stall as rebel group halts talks over attack

Updated 17 October 2019

Sudan peace talks stall as rebel group halts talks over attack

JUBA: Sudan peace talks stalled before they began in Juba on Wednesday as a key rebel grouping said it refused to negotiate with Khartoum, claiming government forces were still bombarding its territory.

Juba is hosting talks between the government of new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and representatives from two umbrella groups of rebels that fought forces of now ousted President Omar Bashir in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

The talks were launched on Monday in the presence of heads of state from Ethiopia, Egypt, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan.

The first face-to-face meeting between the adversaries was to take place in the South Sudan capital on Wednesday.

But Amar Amoua, secretary general of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), told journalists his group would not continue unless the government withdrew from the area of the fighting, in the Nuba Mountains.

“Our coming back to negotiate ... is bound by government decisions to clear all these things,” Amoua, who is representing three different rebel movements, told journalists.

He said that for the past 10 days government forces had continued to attack their territory despite an unofficial cease-fire.

A chief was killed in the Nuba Mountains and several businessmen had gone missing, he charged.

“The government should withdraw its forces and stop ... occupying new areas, we will not allow that,” he said.

Dhieu Mathok, a member of the South Sudan mediation team, told AFP they were investigating the SPLM-N’s complaints.

“We are still investigating it whether there are really attacks in those areas or not, but this will not stop the peace process. Usually in a negotiation these things happen but we are here to resolve the problems.”

Mohammed Hassan, a spokesman for the Sudan delegation, attributed the fighting to an attack by herders on local merchants.

“The government regrets and condemns in the strongest terms these unfortunate events that keep happening in the area and in other parts of the country,” he said.

“We also regret that these events took place at a time when people are entering peace negotiations, and the country and the whole of the region is united for the cause of peace in Sudan.”

The new peace initiative comes after Bashir was toppled by the military in April.

Hamdok has been tasked with leading Sudan back to civilian rule, but he has said he also wants to end Khartoum’s conflicts with the rebels.

The years-long bloodshed has left hundreds of thousands of dead and forced millions to flee their homes.

The movement led by Abdel-Aziz Al-Hilu says it will not resume talks unless the government releases the detainees, withdraws from the area where they were seized, and declares a documented cease-fire. 

The SPLM-N is a rebel group in the states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, which had ceased all hostilities as a “goodwill gesture” after the overthrow of President Bashir. Al-Hilu’s movement controls significant chunks of territory in the region.