SHC rejects petitions against transfer of fake accounts case to Rawalpindi

SHC rejects petitions against transfer of fake accounts case to Rawalpindi

Karachi (Staff Report/Agencies): The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday dismissed all petitions challenging banking court's verdict to move the fake accounts case investigation from Karachi to Rawalpindi.

Former president Asif Ali Zardari, Faryal Talpur, Abdul Gani Majeed, Anwar Majeed and Hussain Lowai had all appealed against the banking court's ruling in the SHC.

Last month, a banking court accepted the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) request, seeking transfer of the fake bank accounts case to the accountability court of Rawalpindi for trial.

On March 11, the court reserved its verdict on the NAB’s plea, requesting to transfer the case — against Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and others to Rawalpindi.

Faryal Talpur, former Pakistan Stock Exchange chairman Hussain Lawai, Omni Group chairman Anwar Majeed's sons AG Majeed, Nimr and Zulqurnain among others appeared before the banking court in Karachi as it resumed hearing in a case pertaining to laundering of several billion rupees through fictitious bank accounts.

As the hearing began, former president Asif Zardari’s counsel, Farooq H Naik, submitted a request for exemption from hearing on behalf of the former president which was accepted by the court.

Reading out the FIR registered by FIA, Naik said, "This court does not have the authority to transfer the case to Islamabad."

Zarari's counsel said that there were "no grounds" for transferring the case to Rawalpindi, and pointed out that the top court had ordered that NAB concludes its investigation within two months, which he said had already lapsed. He further said that it was "important to review" Section 16-A (transfer of cases) of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.

The NAB had formed a combined investigation team to probe the mega money laundering scam.

The move came in light of the Supreme Court’s judgment in the fake accounts suo motu case.

The apex court had directed NAB to conduct fresh investigation within two months and file references against the accused. The JIT had highlighted the top tier of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leadership including Asif Ali Zardari, Faryal Talpur, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.

Zardari's close aide Hussain Lawai was arrested in July in connection with the probe.

Former president's other close aide and Omni Group chairman Anwar Majeed and his son, Abdul Ghani, were also arrested by FIA whereas Majeed’s three other sons were granted interim bail.

Over 20 ‘benami’ accounts were opened in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in some banks from where transactions worth billions of rupees were made, according to sources.

According to FIA sources, the amount is said to be black money gathered from various kickbacks, commissions and bribes.

On December 21, a banking court in Karachi extended the interim pre-arrest bail of Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur till January 7 in the ongoing money laundering case.

A JIT has been investigating the fake accounts recommended a legal course against some 415 key individuals and around 172 entities allegedly involved in transactions of approximately Rs220 billion through 104 fake accounts.

The JIT observed that either the investigation would be further referred to banking courts, NAB, FIA or it was up to the apex court to decide based on the JIT findings.

In a series of events in the fake accounts investigation, the JIT report also revealed a domestic worker of Zardari, with an estimated fortune of around Rs8.1 billion stashed into one of his fake accounts. Mushtaq Ahmed, 37, who once served as one of personal staff members of Zardari accumulated the wealth with Zain Malik through a joint fake account maintained in a private bank in Karachi during 2014-15, the report stated.