ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari was arrested by a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) team from his Islamabad residence hours after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) rejected the PPP leader’s bail plea.
A two-member bench of the high court, comprising Justice Amir Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani, allowed the anti-graft watchdog to arrest the Zardari siblings.
Zardari and his sister, provincial lawmaker Faryal Talpur, are two of the main accused in the money laundering scandal which utilised fake bank accounts to channel illegally gained funds out of the country.
A large presence of security personnel and senior officials were present at the former president’s Islamabad residence. Reportedly, the NAB team was unable to enter the premises initially as Zardari’s legal team was asking for the correct paperwork.
The accountability body had earlier approached National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser to inform him of the PPP lawmaker’s impending arrest.
The verdict was reserved earlier today by IHC in two cases related to money laundering of billions through fake accounts.
Zardari is accused of illegally awarding a water supply contract to a private company – M/S Harish & Company. The high court disposed off pre-arrest plea in the M/S Harish & Company case after NAB said it had not issued arrest warrants in the case.
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 fake accounts case. In the report, NAB listed down at least eight cases where Zardari’s link had been established. It further added that 22 inquiries and three investigations are underway while three references have been filed.
The fake accounts saga
Information regarding the fake accounts came to the fore when an intelligence agency picked up a prominent money changer in an unrelated case. In December 2015, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) began a discreet investigation into certain bank accounts through which multi-billion rupee transactions have been made.
The probe was initially shelved but resumed almost a year and a half later with 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.
It was at his point that the Supreme Court intervened and then 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 then chief justice ordered the formation of a joint investigation team to quicken the pace of the investigation. The JIT identified 11,500 bank accounts and 924 account holders at the start of their investigation.
The JIT report in a nutshell
According to the report, the JIT identified 11,500 bank accounts and 924 account holders at the start of their investigation.
Its experts generated 59 Suspected Transaction Reports (STR) and 24,500 Cash Transaction Reports. That means the transactions were flagged as suspicious.
Due to the high quantum of transactions, the JIT decided on a threshold of Rs10million “to track, follow and minutely investigate the flow of funds beyond the immediate counterparties and determine the source of funds and ultimate beneficiaries.”
It questioned 767 individuals, including Zardari and Talpur, while Bilawal submitted written responses.