ISLAMABAD: A joint investigation team formed by the Supreme Court to probe into an ongoing Rs35 billion money laundering case told the top court on Monday that they have uncovered 33 more suspicious accounts and found that 334 people were involved.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar is hearing a case pertaining to money laundering of Rs35 billion from fictitious bank accounts.
During the hearing, a joint investigation team (JIT) formed to probe into the case submitted its first progress report before the bench in a sealed envelope.
FIA Additional Director General Ahsan Sadiq, who is heading the JIT, informed the bench that they faced difficulties owing to time constraints and reviewed the investigations that have been conducted so far.
The JIT head further informed the court that they have discovered 33 more suspicious accounts and they are being scrutinised.
“The investigations so far have indicated that 334 persons were involved and made transactions in the bank accounts in question,” Sadiq said. “210 companies had links with the fake bank accounts,” he added.
To this, Justice Nisar asked, “Is there any progress on the investigations regarding money that was sent through sea launches?” However, the JIT head responded in the negative.
Justice Nisar then remarked, “We have trusted the JIT with the responsibility.”
“The purpose of the bank accounts is to legalise money that was stolen,” he added.
The chief justice then said, “Omni Group accountant Arif Khan also has an integral role.” However, the JIT head informed the bench, “Arif is not in Pakistan and I cannot yet say which country he is residing in.”
Sadiq further said that steps are being taken to bring back those accused in the case to the country. “Meanwhile, we are also in contact with National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and State Bank of Pakistan for records to aid with investigations.”
Further, the JIT head told the bench that contractors deposited money in the fake bank accounts. To this, Justice Bandial asked whether the money was deposited through cross cheques.
Responding to the judge’s question, the JIT head said, “We will have to investigate. Of the companies that deposited money in the accounts, 47 are directly linked to Omni Group.”
Justice Nisar then asked how many sugar mills are owned by the Omni Group and Sadiq told him that they are 16.
The chief justice then questioned, “Is Omni Group someone’s benamidaar?” In response the JIT head said, “Contractors also deposited money in the fake money accounts and the names of official contractors have been included in the report. However, it is difficult to probe all transactions.”
“Omni Group will pay for the JIT’s expenses, why should the government pay if someone else has stolen money,” Justice Nisar remarked.
However, Omni Group’s counsel refused to pay for the JIT’s expenses and said, “All our accounts are frozen and we don’t even have money to pay salaries of employees.”
Justice Nisar then told the Omni Group counsel, “Sell one of the houses and give money to the JIT.” However, he responded, “Even all our assets are frozen.”
The top court then ordered that the special court should not issue a ruling on Omni Group’s petition to unfreeze their accounts.
The Supreme Court also directed the special court to not issue any orders in the case without informing it beforehand.
“Under Article 184, we stop the special court from issuing an order on the petition. The special court should not give any rulings without informing the Supreme Court,” the bench directed.
The hearing of the case was then adjourned for the next 10 days.
The FIA is investigating 32 people in relation to money laundering from fictitious accounts, including Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur. Zardari’s close aide Hussain Lawai was arrested in July in connection with the probe.
The former president’s other close aide and Omni Group chairman Anwar Majeed and his son, Abdul Ghani, were also arrested by the FIA in August.
Over 20 ‘benami’ accounts at some private banks were opened in 2013, 2014 and 2015 from where transactions worth billions of rupees were made, according to sources.
The amount, according to FIA sources, is said to be black money gathered from various kickbacks, commissions and bribes.