Khudayar Mohla –
Former President and co-chairperson of Pakistan People’s party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari was arrested on Monday after the Islamabad High Court cancelled his pre-arrest bail application in money-laundering case in which millions of rupees were allegedly siphoned out of the country.
Hours after a division bench of the IHC comprising Justices Amir Farooq and Moshin Akhtar Kayani turned down plea of Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur, seeking extension in interim bail in the fake bank accounts case, officials of the top anti-graft body apprehended Zardari from his family residence in Islamabad.
Soon after the team of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) took custody of Zardari, his daughter Aseefa said in a tweet, “This cowardly selected government thinks throwing opposition into jail will legitimise it. No case, no conviction, no plausible cause. Arresting Asif Ali Zardari will not silence the voice of truth. He was vindicated before and he will be vindicated again”.
Member National Assembly Zardari – his sister Faryal Talpur Sindh assembly member are two of the main accused in the money laundering scandal who allegedly operated fake bank accounts to channel ill-gotten substantial amount of money out of the country.
Although Faryal Talpur pre-arrest bail has also been cancelled but top anti-graft body has not taken her custody yet.
It has been reported that the NAB had also approached National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser to inform him of the PPP lawmaker’s impending arrest.
The cases are part of the investigations being conducted by NAB in pursuance of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the money laundering of billions through fake accounts case wherein it forwarded the joint investigation team (JIT) report with directions to investigate and file references.
Other suspects include 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. On May 14, the anti-corruption unit furnished details of inquiries, investigations and references in the case.In the report, NAB listed at least eight cases where Zardari’s link had been established.
The fake accounts saga
Information regarding the fake accounts were disclosed when an intelligence agency arrested a famous money changer for investigation in another matter. During December 2015, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has been reported to began a discreet investigation into certain bank accounts through which multi-billion rupee transactions were made.
The probe was initially shelved but resumed almost a year and a half later with the FIA’s State Bank circle initiating a formal inquiry in January 2018. By June, the FIA had several high-profile names on its list but was unable to make headway–for several reasons.
Top court intervened in the matter while former Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice over lackluster performance in the money-laundering case. Consequently, close aids of Zardari including Hussain Lawai, Taha Raza and two others were arrested. Subsequently, the first case was registered in the mega-corruption scandal.
Mian Saqib Nisar issued directives to form a Joint Investigation Team in order to accelerate pace of the investigation in the scam which identified as many as 11,500 bank accounts and a total of 924 account holders at the start of their investigation.
The JIT report
According to the JIT report, experts generated 59 Suspected Transaction Reports (STR) and 24,500 Cash Transaction Reports which means the transactions were flagged as suspicious. Then the JIT decided on a threshold of Rs10 million to track, follow and minutely investigate the flow of funds beyond the immediate counterparties and determine the source of funds and ultimate beneficiaries.
During the probe the JIT questioned as many as 767 individuals including Zardari and his sister Frayal Talpur whereas Bilawal submitted written responses before the Team.
What is next
Zardari, who pronounced post Eid anti-government move is now in hands of the NAB authorities who will produce him before National Accountability Court with a plea to seek remand of Zardari for investigation on June 11 whereas Zardari has option to invoke jurisdiction of Supreme Court for remedy against the IHC decision of pre-arrest bail cancellation.
Earlier, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Shehbaz Sharif urged the Speaker of National Assembly Asad Qaiser to issue production orders for Asif Ali Zardari on the grounds that Zardari has presented himself before NAB on every occasion and has not used delaying tactics saying NAB should have appreciated this and there was no need for an arrest.
Zardari who hinted at anti-government movement after Eid was once jailed for 11 years for corruption. He became President of Pakistan and competed term till 2013 after his wife Benazir Bhautto was assasinatetd in Rawalpindi during 2008 in Pervez Musharraf regime.
It is pertinent to mention that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is also currently behind bars, after being sentenced to seven years imprisonment last year on corruption charges.
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