ISLAMABAD - Supreme Court on Monday, directing National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to hold investigation in mega money laundering and fake bank accounts case, ordered to remove names of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Shah from the Exit Control List (ECL). Three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar also directed Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to remove the names of both from the its report, as well. The top court ordered NAB to investigate the case in light of a report recently submitted by a joint investigation team probing the matter, and to complete its investigation within two months. The bench mandated the accountability bureau to summon whoever it wishes, and instructed the JIT to continue its own probe meanwhile. Justice Nisar remarked that NAB can probe Bilawal and CM Shah independently and if after the investigation a reference can be formed, then it should be filed. The Chief Justice asked the JIT counsel,Faisal Siddiqui that why JIT had recommended to place Bilawal on the no-fly list in its report adding that the JIT would have to clarify it. Justice Nisar further said, “Bilawal’s career is spotless till now. His father and paternal aunt were running the businesses and may have the role in this matter, but what is Bilawal's role. Faisal Siddiqui said, “JIT report page 57 mentions Park Lane property was brought through fake accounts and Bilawal has 25% share in the property, he added. However, the top judge remarked, “How does being a shareholder prove that Bilawal is part of the scandal. We can freeze the property but his name cannot be placed on the ECL on this basis.” Meanwhile, the Attorney Veneral informed the court that the federal government has forwarded the matter of placing names on ECL to the review committee and further progress on this matter is expected by January 10. Munir Bhatti, counsel for Omni Group while pleading the case denied the existence of a nexus between the three different companies and added that Omni Group had bought the sugar mills in accordance with the law.
Chief Justice, responded and said that "But the mills were not available for free, were they? "The money came through the fake accounts."
Bhatti said that his client had not done anything illegal by buying sugar mills on subsidies and added that the figures mentioned in the JIT report were not a single record. Munir added that the matter has been further complicated by forwarding it to the committee. We do not know when the committee will take measures.” Expressing anger over the Omni Group counsel’s remarks, the chief justice said, “If you have an issue then forget the cabinet, I will place names on ECL.”
“You are not discussing the real case,” Justice Nisar further told the Omni Group counsel.
"Do you know anything about layering, Mr Bhatti?" Justice Ijazul Ahsan, who is part of the bench hearing the case, asked the lawyer. Bhatti responded in the negative.
"Then why are you presenting arguments?" Justice Ahsan asked. Justice Nisar remarked that JIT's findings cannot be dismissed and the court has to examine the replies from the respondents.
Bahria Town, Zain Malik, Zardari, Talpur, Anwar and Abdul Ghani Majeed, and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan have all submitted their responses to the court. Chief Justice remarked that “So much matter has come against Omni Group that no one can shut their eyes to it. The SECP, in its response, also said that the JIT had not approached it for comment or given it an opportunity to "explain the correct legal position" on the matter of acquisition of shares of Arif Habib Bank and Atlas Bank by Suroor Investment Ltd. Subsequently, the court also ordered that names of Anwar Mansoor Khan's brother and Farooq H Naek and his family be removed from the ECL and adjourned the case until January 23. Several bigwigs, including former president Asif Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, former president of Summit Bank Hussain Lawai and Omni Group's Anwar Majeed, were all nominated in the case. Property tycoon Malik Riaz, his son-in-law Zain have also been included in the probe.
Over 20 ‘benami’ accounts at some private banks were opened in 2013, 2014 and 2015 from where transactions worth billions of rupees were allegedly made.
The amount, according to FIA, is said to be black money gathered from various kickbacks, commissions and bribes. -APP