NAB seeks Zardari, Talpur’s arrest as IHC resumes hearing in fake accounts case

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ISLAMABAD (DNA) – The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday will resume hearing of arguments in the fake bank accounts case against former president and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) seeks their arrest.Yesterday, a two-member division bench, comprising of Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani and Justice Aamer Farooq, extended bail of nine accused persons in the case till today.

The court has also ordered the NAB to produce all record pertaining to the fake accounts transactions in the next hearing (today).

A NAB officer investigating the fake bank accounts case told the court that the investigation team had sought approval from the NAB chairman for the arrest of Mr Zardari and his sister.

Mr Zardari’s defense counsel, Farooq H Naek, completed his arguments yesterday, while the NAB additional prosecutor Jahanzeb Bharwana was scheduled to continue his arguments today.

“Mr Zardari is not the director of the company, but only a shareholder,” Naek argued, adding that until then the copies of the reference against his clients were not provided to them.

“The accusations against my clients would only be known after the copies of the reference are furnished,” he said, adding that an accountability court has already approved surety bonds in the reference, and the decision is being awaited.

Justice Kiyani asked whether the NAB has already issued arrest warrants of Mr Zardari.

To which, Mr Bharwana told the bench that the team did not want to arrest the accused person, and arrest warrants weren’t issued.

To this, the bench asked the NAB officer, investigating the fake bank accounts case, about the matter.

Subsequently, the officer stated that the investigation team had sought approval from the NAB chairman for the arrest of Mr Zardari and his sister.

Naek informed the court that the FIR lodged in the case did not nominate Mr Zardari or Ms Talpur, and there was no reality in the accusations against his clients.

Contrarily, Mr Bharwana read the judgment of the Supreme Court (SC), in which the court had ordered the bureau to investigate into fake bank accounts within two months, and resultantly the NAB chairman had under Section 16-A of the NAO transferred the case from Karachi to Islamabad.

He also told the court that references were to be filed after completion of the investigation process, and a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) had investigated into 32 accounts, which in turn revealed links to thousands of suspicious transactions, according to documents as evidence in the matter.

The additional prosecutor responded that the SC had directed to probe the matter and file reference in the case, and subsequently thousands of suspicious transactions were found.

“In a bank account of the Zardari Group, Rs1.5 crore was transferred from Umair Associates,” he told the court. To which, Justice Kiyani asked “who had operated the account?” Mr Bharwana told the court that Faryal Talpur used to operate the account.

To which, Naek argued that both Mr Zardari and his sister were landlords and leading sugarcane growers in the region and they sold their crops to the Omni Group and in return received cash through banks.

The bench regretted that the investigation officer did not bring the record on the basis of which he connected the individuals with the fake account transactions, and consequently warned the NAB of issuing show-cause notices to the prosecution and the investigation team.

“What are you here for then?” Justice Kiyani said, adding that the court was hearing argument for an hour and a half, and still no record was produced before the court.

To this, the officer said the record has a large volume and that both Mr Zardari and his sister were beneficiaries of this account according to an interim challan filed by the FIA, and the Zardari Group had an important role in it.

After hearing arguments from both sides, the court extended their bail till today.

Yesterday, Mr Zardari excused himself from appearing before a Combined Investigation Team (CIT) of the NAB Rawalpindi in a case pertaining to an illegal award of contract for a solar power project that allegedly caused Rs10 billion loss to the national exchequer.

Reportedly, he requested the NAB, through his lawyer Farooq H Naek, to reschedule his appearance after Eid-ul-Fitr with a reason that he has to appear before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) at the same time for a pre-arrest bail appeal.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Mr Zardari were scheduled for recording their statements in Park Lane Company and fake bank accounts investigations, respectively.

On May 23, Mr Zardari had excused himself from appearing before the NAB Rawalpindi on the pretext of busy schedule in the ongoing investigation into the fake bank accounts case. The former president had written a letter to the NAB, stating that he could not appear today due to busy schedule, and asked it to manage another date for him.

On May 15, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had granted him and his sibling Faryal Talpur bail in all of the cases against them. The high court had granted Mr Zardari interim bail in the money laundering through fake bank accounts case until May 29 (today).

Earlier on May 9, the NAB had summoned him to record his statement in the fake accounts case; however he had excused himself from appearing before the CIT, and sought another date on the grounds that he was scheduled to appear before an accountability court in Islamabad on the same day.

The NAB has already filed references in money laundering through fake bank accounts, Pink Residency and illegal award of water supply schemes against him.

On April 13, Zardari had submitted his written response to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Rawalpindi on 54 questions in connection with three cases against him, including Park Lane Estate, Pink Residency, and fake accounts and money laundering.

The Federal Investigation Agency had named Zardari, Talpur, Omni Group chairman Anwar Majeed, his sons and other suspects in a charge sheet filed in the banking court in August 2018 for alleged money laundering of billions of rupees through fake bank accounts in three banks – Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and United Bank Ltd.

NAB is conducting investigations 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.

Earlier, the case was being heard in a banking court in Karachi but had been shifted to an accountability court in Islamabad upon an appeal by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).