SC seeks review of ECL list barring Zardari and CM Sindh

SC seeks review of ECL list barring Zardari and CM Sindh
The chief justice of Pakistan said on Monday that he found it 'strange' that the federal government had placed the name of a serving chief minister on the Exit Control List. He also instructed the PTI administration to review its decision in this regard while hearing the money laundering case. (Photo courtesy: Supreme Court of Pakistan)
Updated 31 December 2018

SC seeks review of ECL list barring Zardari and CM Sindh

SC seeks review of ECL list barring Zardari and CM Sindh
  • Apex court also allows ex-president to file his defense by the weekend
  • Investigative team awaits court’s order to repatriate Omni Group’s CFO from Saudi Arabia

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday directed the government to review an Exit Control List (ECL) which bars former president Asif Ali Zardari, Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah, and 170 others from leaving the country.

The suspects have been placed on the  ECL due to their alleged roles in money-laundering cases involving billions of rupees that had been channeled using fictitious bank accounts.

“Review this decision, place it before the federal cabinet,” Chief Justice Saqib Nisar said while hearing the case along with Justice Ijazul Ahsan here in the court.
 
Last week, the government announced its decision to place the names of 172 individuals, including Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, his paternal aunt Faryal Talpur, and bankers and businessmen who were named in a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report.
 
During the hearing today, the chief justice expressed his displeasure over the ECL before directing the federal cabinet to review the decision.
 
“We have yet to give a ruling on the findings of the JIT report,” the chief justice said. 
 
“How can the chief minister of the country’s second-biggest province be put on the ECL?” Justice Nisar asked the attorney general. “It’s very strange for me.”
 
Meanwhile, the court allowed the legal team of former president Zardari and Talpur to submit their separate replies in the money-laundering case by the end of this week.
 
Bahria Town’s Chief Executive Officer, Malik Riaz, whose name had surfaced in the JIT report, also appeared before the Supreme Court today and clarified that the project for Bahria Town’s Icon Tower in Karachi -- which has been described in the JIT report as controversial -- was planned in 2005 when General (retired) Pervez Musharraf was in power.
 
“Then we will send this matter to NAB for further investigation,” the chief justice remarked.
 
The chief justice also expressed anger over the media's discussion and analysis of the JIT report. “Why are government ministers discussing this on media,” he asked. “The court is yet to pass an order on the findings of the JIT report.”
 
The JIT that was constituted by the Supreme Court to probe the use of fake bank accounts in the money laundering case submitted a detailed report on the matter in the apex court last week.
 
The report claimed that a close nexus was found between Zardari and Omni groups and Bahria Town which used at least 29 fake bank accounts to launder Rs42 billion. The JIT produced the report after investigating 11,500 bank accounts of 924 individuals and companies associated with the fake accounts, the document said.
 
Meanwhile, a former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Omni Group, Aslam Masood, has reportedly recorded a statement in the money laundering case, admitting that the group had opened fake bank accounts for money laundering purposes and that he personally supervised the check books for these accounts, local media reported on Friday.
 
The confession also exposes the various stages through which ill-gotten money was parked in these fake bank accounts to be 'layered' and 'integrated' with legit payments, reported media. The confessional statement has been made part of the court's record.  
 
Masood was arrested by the Interpol in Jeddah on October 23 after Pakistan filed a request in September this year. “He is seriously ill and hospitalized in Saudi Arabia,” Mohammad Ali Abro, Assistant Director of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), told Arab News.
 
“He (Aslam Masood) has to undergo dialysis after every second day, so it seems difficult to repatriate him to Pakistan,” he added. “But we are waiting for directions in this regard from the Supreme Court.”
 
Senior advocate high court, Sharafat Ali, said that the Supreme Court can either send the fictitious bank accounts case to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for further investigation or a banking court for trial.
 
“We hope that the chief justice will dispose off the case before his retirement on January 17,” he told Arab News. “But a final judgment in the case from an accountability court or banking court may take months.”
 
The apex court will now resume the hearing of the case on January 7.