SC orders to freeze assets of Zardari, Omni groups, Bahria Town under probe

SC orders to freeze assets of Zardari, Omni groups, Bahria Town under probe
During the hearing, the CJP said that expenses incurred by Zardari – who is also the co-chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party — and Bilawal House were paid through companies using fake bank accounts. (AFP/File)
Updated 24 December 2018

SC orders to freeze assets of Zardari, Omni groups, Bahria Town under probe

SC orders to freeze assets of Zardari, Omni groups, Bahria Town under probe
  • JIT report holds Zardari, Omni groups and Bahria Town responsible for transactions through fake bank accounts
  • An estimated PKR 101 billion is believed to have been laundered using fake bank accounts

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Monday ordered to freeze all properties of Zardari and Omni groups and Bahria Town mentioned in a report of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing fictitious bank accounts case involving illegal transactions of billions of rupees.
A two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar heard the suo-motu case at the apex court’s Lahore registry.
The court imposed an immediate ban on sale and purchase of the properties under investigation in the case.
The Federal Investigation Agency is investigating 32 people in relation to money-laundering from fictitious bank accounts, including ex-president and Pakistan Peoples Party’s co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur. Zardari’s close aides including Hussain Lawai, Omni Group chairman Anwar Majeed and his son Abdul Ghani have already been arrested in connection with the case.
During the hearing, a summary of the JIT report was shown on a projector in the courtroom. The report revealed that payments for the upkeep of Bilawal House’s pets was also made through the fake bank accounts.
The report claimed that the expenses of Zardari family’s residences in both Karachi and Lahore — commonly known as Bilawal House — were paid through fake bank accounts. The court was informed that the Zardari Group had obtained 53.4 billion rupees in loans, of which 24 billion rupees was secured from the Sindh Bank, even though the bank as per rules could only have granted 4 billion rupees loan.
The court was informed that 60-story Bahria Icon Tower in Karachi was erected illegally on government land and Zardari Group holds 50 percent shares in it.
About Talpur, the JIT report claimed that 1.2 billion rupees went into her account, from which land was procured in Tando Allahyar and Lahore cities.
The chief justice noted that expenses of Zardari and Bilawal House were paid through companies operating fake bank accounts.
“It is a matter of billions of rupees and we will not forgive. We cannot pardon those who looted this amount,” the chief justice remarked.
In 2015, when the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) launched probe into the report submitted by its Financial Monitoring Unit, the agency discovered 29 fake bank accounts were used in PKR 35 billion money laundering. Since then a number of fake bank accounts have been discovered used in a PKR 101 billion money-laundering ring.
The JIT’s findings linked the fake bank accounts to Zardari, claiming that his personal expenses were also paid through these accounts’ funds.
The court directed the FIA’s request to place the names of the accused on no-fly list to the Interior Ministry.
Notices were issued to Zardari, real estate tycoon Malik Riaz and his son-in-law Zain Malik, instructing the JIT report to be shared with all the accused.
The apex court has adjourned the case till December 31, directing lawyers of the accused to submit their replies in the case.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) dissed the JIT report by terming it as “political victimization” of PPP leadership.
Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, spokesperson to PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, termed the JIT report as “ridiculous,” saying his party would consult the legal team on the JIT report to “formulate a strategy.”