ISLAMABAD   -  The Supreme Court yesterday directed the joint investigation team (JIT) probing alleged money laundering of more than Rs100 billion through fake bank accounts to submit its final report till December 19.

“With respect to the final report by the JIT, let the same be submitted within a period of two weeks positively,” stated the December 5 written order of the top court in the case regarding alleged money laundering wherein Co-Chairperson Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur are also accused.

The other primary accused in the case are Omni Group’s Anwar Majeed, a close aide of Zardari, his son Abdul Ghani Majeed, Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) former chairman Hussain Lawai, Summit Bank’s Senior Vice-President Taha Raza who allegedly opened fake accounts in Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and United Bank Limited. Currently the accounts of Omni Group are seized.

The top court also allowed the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) that it may initiate criminal and civil proceedings against the Omni Group after Majeed refused to repay the outstanding amounts to the bank.

“In such an eventuality, the NBP is free to initiate criminal as well civil proceedings against the Omni Group and all those it considers responsible in this regard as per the law,” stated the written order.

The bench also declined the request of Summit Bank’s counsel seeking top court’s instructions for State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to facilitate out-of-court settlement with Omni Group. “Suffice it to say that the request so made is absolutely unreasonable and unacceptable,” the written order observed.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Faisal Arab will hear the case on December 24 and JIT’s report will also be examined subject to completion of investigation.

On September 6, the top court had constituted a 6-member JIT headed by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Additional Director General (Economic Crime Wing) Ahsan Sadiq.

The accused Anwar Majeed and Abdul Ghani Majeed were arrested on August 15 and currently in Adiala Jail after the top court had ordered to shift them from Sindh.

Zardari has recorded his statement before the JIT while PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari submitted his written reply to a questionnaire provided by the team.

During the JIT’s investigation, the scam had become more complex due to involvement of Benami companies and a vast nexus of fake accounts with these Benami companies had also been observed.

It has also been revealed that the alleged laundered money was utilised for purchasing properties in United Kingdom (UK) and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The JIT also contacted UAE’s government for required details in the matter. It is also noteworthy that the major part of important documentary evidence of alleged money laundering was found to be burnt in Khoski Sugar Mills Badin during the course of investigation. 

However, hard drives of terabytes, containing accounts’ details and transactions, were recovered. Cases have also been registered on account of recovery of weapons during the raid. 

During interrogation, it also transpired that Ghani Majeed and Anwar Majeed had foreign company namely KAM Crown International Trading House Co. LLC Dubai.

The licence of the said foreign company is in the names of Nazli Majeed, the wife of Anwar Majeed, Noor Nimr Majeed and Minahil Majeed, the wife of Abdul Ghani Majeed.

Two foreign bank statements of KAM Crown maintained at Habib Bank AG Zurich Dubai and Emirates NBD Dubai were recovered during search of office of Ghani Majeed. The payments were made from these accounts to personal and family's account in UK for purchasing properties in UAE and UK.”

The KAM Crown Company also received funds from Hopeway General Trading, Azhar Mobiles, Azhar Technical Trading and Tanveer Masood Trading who have fed the account of accused through foreign transfers and which were subsequently transferred for subscription of right shares of Summit Bank.

Transfer of amount in/from the foreign accounts of KAM Crown and withdrawal of huge amounts from the fake accounts (Summit Bank/ UBL/ Sindh Bank) in the same days arise suspicion that capital has flown out of Pakistan via illegal route of Hawala and Hundi.

Accused Abdul Ghani Majeed disclosed that he had business relations with Younas Kodavi who was also director of M/s Rubicon Builders & Developers Pvt. Ltd. It is worth mentioning that Rubicon Builders and M/s Parthenon are among depositors and also beneficiaries of fake accounts.

Accused Abdul Ghani Majeed has also admitted links with Haji Haroon’s Exchange Company for illegal purchase of USD amounting to Rs80-100 million.

Anwar Majeed and Abdul Ghani Majeed were given ample opportunity to produce evidence in their defence regarding heavy deposit of Rs3122 million and withdrawal of Rs4014 million in 29 suspicious or fake accounts.

Both the accused admitted transactions in fake accounts, however, they failed to produce any evidence in their defence regarding the use and purpose of said heavy amounts transacted in the said accounts.

During the investigation, some new companies of Omni Group surfaced including Anaoud Gas Ltd which has transaction with one of the fake account of Umair Associates while the second company namely Platinum LPG also surfaced during interrogation.

Addresses in account opening forms were found fake, different shops/ premises of International Business Centre, which is owned by M/s Parthenon Pvt. Ltd. This centre's directors are M Iqbal Noori and Younas Kodavi

In its report, JIT also complained that the PPP-led Sindh government was not cooperating in the probe while a number of government contractors in Sindh deposited amounts in fake bank accounts.

According to FIA’s report about verification of pledge of stock of sugar of Omni Group, the sugar mills of Omni Group were availing various financial facilities from different banks including cash finance against pledge of stocks.

The total outstanding loan amount, cash finance activity, against pledge of stock from all banks is approximately Rs13,598 million. The pledged bags are Rs75,36,515, available bags are Rs8,37,889 and the missing bags are Rs66,92,946. FIA Sindh zone registered nine inquiries at the Commercial Bank Circle Karachi in order to fix the responsibility and take appropriate legal action to recover the loss.

 

SYED SABEEHUL HUSSNAIN