ISLAMABAD   -     Former president Asif Ali Zardari Monday objected to transfer of money-laundering case from Karachi to Islamabad.

Zardari did not attend the hearing of the case on Monday, however, the former president’s sister Faryal Talpul, Hussain Lawai and others were present during the hearing.

Zardari’s counsel, Farooq H Naik, raised the objection in court on behalf of his client. The prosecution, led by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), responded that the case was being transferred in light of the Supreme Court’s instructions, and NAB chairman had also approved the transfer, hence the objections had no basis.

Naik countered the argument and said that NAB is falsely interpreting the top court’s instruction and is trying to exert pressure on the defendants.

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.

By June, the FIA had several high-profile names on its list but was unable to make headway – for several reasons. It was at his point that the Supreme Court intervened. Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice of the ‘slow progress’ in the money laundering case.

In July, Zardari’s close aides; Hussain Lawai, Taha Raza and two others were arrested. Subsequently, the first case was registered in the mega-corruption scandal.

The FIA submitted its report to the apex court on July 8 which revealed a web of companies and accounts that were being used to transfer billions of rupees.

In all, 29 accounts were identified that received payments, totaling at least Rs35 billion.

In August, Omni Group chief Anwar Majeed was arrested along with son Abdul Ghani Majeed when they returned to the country on being summoned by the apex court. They are now on judicial remand.