KARACHI - A banking court on Saturday reserved judgement on bail applications of Hussain Lawai and Talha Raza in a money laundering case until August 20 after hearing final arguments from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and defence counsel.

The trail court conducted hearing on two identical applications filed by Hussain Lawai and Talha Raza seeking bail. The prosecution opposed the bail applications, saying that they have sufficient evidence against the accused to prove money laundering charges against them.  FIA Additional Director Malik Mumtaz-ul-Hassan informed the court that billions of rupees were transacted from a salary account. He said that people who took Rs20,000 from the suspects have Rs4 billion in their bank accounts. He added that Lawai was the head of Summit Bank and everything happened under his nose.

Hassan said the Omni Group headed by Anwar Majeed, said to be a close aide of former president Asif Ali Zardari, is also neck deep in the scam. Anwar had earlier tried to distance himself from the group by saying he was no longer running it due to his poor health.

Investigation officer Ali Abro informed the court that kickbacks from land and contracts were deposited into the fake bank accounts. The court asked for evidence to back up these claims and told Abro to explain to the court why the suspects needed to open fake accounts in the first place.

The IO replied that 16 out of 29 fake accounts were opened at Summit Bank. He also submitted that the phone calls and other communication records were collected, which can prove the allegations regarding money laundering.

Hussain Lawai’s lawyer Shaukat Hayat argued that FIA officials had made tall claims before the Supreme Court; they had said they had sufficient evidence against his client, but so far not such evidence has been produced in the trial court. He said the prosecution had failed to prove fake bank accounts and illegal money transactions.

Hayat contended that FIA authorities failed to provide any evidence that Lawai took kickbacks and was involved in a crime.

On a query, he replied that there had been no forensic testing of the Whatsapp messages presented as evidence.

The court, after hearing concluding arguments from both sides, reserved the judgement and it is likely to be announced on August 20.

Hussain Lawai is said to be a close aide of former president Asif Ali Zardari who was the first to be arrested in the case.

On the other side, Farooq H. Naek, lawyer of former president Asif Ali Zardari, approached the trial court to collect non-bailable arrest warrant for Zardari that were issued earlier by the trial court.

The trail court also issued NBW for other accused such as Arif Khan, Naseer Abdullah Hussain, Adnan Javed, Aslam Masood, Namar Majeed, Mohammad Umair, Iqbal, Azam Wazir Khan, Zain Malik and Mustafa Zulqarnain.

The FIA officials have been directed to arrest the accused and produce them before the court on September 4.

Zardari’s close aide Anwar Majeed and his son Abdul Ghani Majeed were arrested in Islamabad three days ago.

Former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and eighteen others have been declared absconders by the FIA in the money laundering case involving fake accounts and fictitious transactions worth Rs35 billion.

According to the prosecution, the main accused, Hussain Lawai, former Pakistan Stock Exchange chairman, and other bankers were allegedly involved providing facilities for opening 29 ‘fake’ accounts at Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and United Bank Limited. ‘Beneficiaries of the Sindh government’ deposited Rs35 billion in these accounts and this amount was later transferred to other accounts. The prosecution stated that more than 32 people had been involved in investigation in connection with illegal money transactions through fake bank accounts.

FIA officials stated that at least 20 benami accounts at a private bank were opened in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and transactions worth billions of rupees were made through these accounts. The amount is said to be black money and it was allegedly collected from kickbacks, commissions and bribe.

FIA had informed the court that officials had found 15 more accounts of A-One International, from which Rs 6 billion had been transacted.