ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday decided to constitute a joint investigation team to probe alleged money laundering of at least Rs35 billion through fake accounts.
Former president Asif Ali Zardari, sister Faryal Talpur, Omni group’s Anwar Majeed and his sons, former Pakistan Stock Exchange chairman Hussain Lawai and Summit Bank Senior Vice-President Taha Raza and others are accused in the case.
Resuming the hearing of the suo motu case, the three-member bench led by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar decided to form the JIT on a request from DG Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Bashir Memon. The new investigation team will comprise representatives from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) and country’s premier intelligence agencies; Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI).
The members will be nominated by the apex court and the team will submit a fortnightly progress report to the SC.
The accused are currently being investigated by an FIA-led seven-member JIT, led by FIA Additional Director General Najaf Mirza, for allegedly facilitating 29 ‘fake’ accounts in Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and United Bank Limited.
When the bench inquired seeking inclusion of members of the intelligence agencies, Memon said the FIA lacked technical expertise required to probe the matter. Stressing on serious security threats being received by officers investigating the case, Memon said the intelligence agencies’ support was need keeping in view the “prevailing situation in Sindh and behaviour of accused.”
The top court remained uncertain over inclusion of MI representative in the JIT.
DG FIA also requested the top court to transfer the investigation and trial to Islamabad from Sindh. “Have you received any threat from one of the accused?” asked Justice Bandial. The bench then directed Sindh Rangers to provide security to the JIT members.
Justice Nisar also observed that the top court was in search of ‘angels’ who deposited and withdrew Rs35 billion from fake accounts. “We want to know who owned the money – where it came from and where it went. We are trying to ascertain the truth.”
Sustaining an objection raised by defence counsel Aitzaz Ahsan, the top court excluded FIA JIT head Mirza from the new investigation team. The court order will be issued later.
Members of the defence team, Ahsan, Shahid Hamid and Farooq H Naek raised separate objections over the formation of the new JIT. However, the top judge remarked that the SC can constitute a JIT to ensure a transparent inquiry.
“There are no impediments which could stop the SC to form JIT,” he added.
Justice Nisar also inquired why Majeed and his son Abdul Ghani Majeed should not be brought to Islamabad for medical checkup. Citing the Panamagate verdict and Article 10 (a) of the Constitution, Hamid said the court could not go beyond as the matter was already under FIA investigation.
He said the “Rs35 billion” figure was “vastly exaggerated” by the FIA and asked the top court to refrain from stamping on the agency’s request to form a JIT. “It will give a wrong perception in public eyes.”