A banking court in Karachi on Tuesday granted yet another bail extension to Pakistani Peoples Party Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, party leader Faryal Talpur and others in a case related to money laundering of billions through fictitious bank accounts.
PPP’s top leadership, the Omni Group’s Anwar Majeed and his son Abdul Ghani Majeed, former Pakistan Stock Exchange chairperson Hussain Lawai, Summit Bank Senior Vice-President Taha Raza are among those being investigated by the Federal Investigation Agency and the National Accountability Bureau separately. The matter is also being heard by the Supreme Court.
Zardari did not appear before the bench due to the ongoing parliament session in Islamabad, however, the hearing was attended by Talpur and other suspects. Citing a medical certificate, Malir Police said Anwar Majeed could not be presented because he was unwell and doctors had restricted his travel.
During the hearing, the investigation officer briefed the bench of all latest updates in the probe. The court provided suspects’ defence council with a copy of NAB prosecutor’s request seeking transfer of the case to Islamabad.
The defence council sought an adjournment till March 12 while NAB and FIA requested hearing on March 7. Dismissing both pleas, the bench fixed hearing on March 11 and granted bail to the former president and his sister.
In December 2015, the Federal Investigation Agency began a discreet investigation into certain bank accounts through which multi-billion rupee transactions have been made. According to FIA sources, information regarding the fake accounts came to the fore when an intelligence agency picked up a prominent money changer in an unrelated case.
As the monitoring and investigation of these suspicious accounts continued, it surfaced that five of these accounts in two banks – the Sindh Bank and Summit Bank – had been used for transactions worth around Rs15 billion.
Investigation showed the accounts were operated by fake companies. Funds were credited into these accounts from contractors with multi-billion rupee contracts with the Sindh government. The money was found to have been transferred to accounts of companies owned and operated by the Omni Group, whose chairperson, Anwar Majeed, is a close aide of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari. Another beneficiary was Nasir Lootah, the chairperson of Summit Bank.
The probe, however, was shelved. It resumed almost a year and a half later. FIA’s State Bank circle initiated a formal inquiry in January 2018.