Zardari advised against appearing before FIA today: sources

Zardari advised against appearing before FIA today: sources

KARACHI: Former president Asif Ali Zardari has been advised by senior lawyers to not appear before the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) today in relation to a Rs35 billion money laundering scam.

Sources told that the former president’s legal team will appear before the FIA today in place of him.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) consulted senior lawyers over FIA’s summoning of Zardari and they advised him against appearing before the investigative agency, sources said.

“PPP leaders Farooq Naik, Latif Khosa, Aitzaz Ahsan and Nayyar Bokhari briefed the former president on the case,” the sources added.

Zardari and his sister, Faryal Talpur, have been summoned at 10am today to record their statements in the money laundering case. 

A day earlier, FIA Inspector Muhammad Ali issued notices summoning the former president and his Talpur.

Further on Tuesday, sources said the investigative agency has decided not to immediately arrest the siblings.

The FIA is investigating 32 people in relation to money laundering from benami account, under which Zardari’s close aide Hussain Lawai was also arrested earlier.

The PPP co-chairman and his sister are among 20 summoned by the apex court on July 12 in relation to the case and Inspector General (IG) Sindh Amjad Javid Saleemi has been directed by the apex court to ensure their presence for the hearing.

Further, Zardari and Talpur's names have been placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) on Supreme Court's orders.

Last week, the FIA registered a case in Karachi over a money laundering scandal of Rs35 billion said to implicate politicians, businessmen and bankers.

On July 6, the agency arrested Stock Exchange of Pakistan chairman Hussain Lawai, who is considered to be a close aide of Zardari.

The FIA officials maintain that 32 people, including Lawai, are being investigated for laundering billions of rupees through fictitious bank accounts.

FIA constitutes JIT to probe matter

Meanwhile, the FIA has constituted a seven-member joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the matter. The team will be headed by Additional DG FIA Dr Najaf Mirza.

Sources obtained a copy of the notification of the JIT's formation, signed by DG FIA Bashir Memon.

The JIT includes Director FIA Punjab Dr Usman Anwar, Director FIA Sindh Muneer Ahmed Sheikh, Additional Director Banking Circle Karachi Faizullah Korejo, Deputy Director FIA Sindh Ali Mardan Khoso and two deputy directors of FIA Punjab, Chaudhry Mohammad Ahmed and Khalid Anis.

The investigation team will be able to get assistance from any additional member and will probe fake bank accounts.

The probe

The FIA inquiry started when the financial monitoring unit of the State Bank of Pakistan generated a 'suspicious transaction report' in January this year regarding ten bank accounts.

Sources maintain that over 20 ‘benami’ accounts at a private bank were opened in 2013, 2014 and 2015 from where transactions worth billions of rupees’ were made.

The amount according to FIA sources is said to be black money gathered from various kickbacks, commissions and bribes. But despite these huge transactions, the bank authorities never reported them to the authorities concerned including the FIA.

On Sunday, the Supreme Court ordered to place the names of heads of three private banks involved in the scam on the ECL.

The order came as Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar took notice of the slow pace of inquiry into the case.