–List includes names of Asif Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Faryal Talpur, Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah, realtor Malik Riaz and Omni Group Chairman Anwar Majeed
–Names of Sindh Bank and Summit Bank’s incumbent and former presidents also put on no-fly list alongside SECP acting chief Tahir Mehmood, ex-PSE chief Hussain Lawai
–PPP demands putting PM Imran Khan’s name on ECL since he’s also facing NAB probe
ISLAMABAD: The names of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and several other leading PPP leaders, senior bankers and prominent businessmen were placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) on Friday, a day after the federal government announced that it was adding the names of 172 accused in the fake accounts case to the no-fly list.
The list includes the names of Zardari’s sister Faryal Talpur, Sindh Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah, former Sindh CM Qaim Ali Shah, provincial ministers Imtiaz Shaikh and Mukesh Chawla, former Sindh home minister Sohail Anwar Siyal, Land Utilisation Secretary Saqib Somroo and Malir Deputy Commissioner Kazijaan Mohammad.
In addition to civil servants and politicians, at least 10 members of the Omni Group, including its Chairman Anwar Majeed and his sons Abdul Ghani Majeed, Nimr Majeed, are also on the no-fly list.
Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) Acting Chairman Tahir Mehmood –who is out of the country– SECP Executive Director Ali Azeem Ikram and former Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) chairman Hussain Lawai, who is currently incarcerated in connection to the money laundering scam, are also on the list of suspects barred from leaving the country.
Some senior bankers also made it to the list.
Summit Bank President Ahsan Raza Durrani, Sindh Bank President Ahsan Tariq, former president of Sindh Bank Bilal Shaikh and former president of National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) Syed Ali Raza’s names also feature on the list.
Bahria Town Chairman Malik Riaz, former Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) chairman Manzoor Qadir and Wadood Engineering CEO Uzair Tehseen have also been barred from travelling abroad.
COMPLETE LIST OF 172 PEOPLE PLACED ON ECL:
The move comes days after the Joint Investigation Team – led by FIA Director Najaf Mirza – submitted its findings before a three-member apex court bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar. The bench is hearing a sou motu case pertaining to money laundering of billions of rupees through fake bank accounts.
The federal cabinet on Thursday decided to place the accused on the no-fly list. The decision was announced by Federal Minister for Information and Technology Fawad Chaudhry.
“They will be held accountable and each and every penny of the national exchequer will be recovered,” he said in a press conference.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader urged Zardari to take the JIT report ‘seriously’.
PPP ‘NOT AFRAID’ OF ECL:
Following the release of the list, PPP leaders said that they are “not afraid” of things like the ECL and criticised the placement of senior PPP leaders’ names on the list.
Senate Leader of Opposition Sherry Rehman alleged that PM’s Adviser on Accountability Barrister Shahzad Akbar used to be in FIA office. Rehman also criticised the government’s move and said, “Tehreek-e-Inteqaam (movement of revenge) has shown its real face by place Bilawal’s name on ECL.”
“We are not scared of this mutual understanding between PTI and the joint investigation team (JIT),” Rehman further said.
Further, PPP leader Dr Nafisa Shah criticised the government’s decision to place names of top party leaders on the ECL and said that “Prime Minister Imran Khan should also be barred from flying abroad as he [currently] faces a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) inquiry”.
Nafisa took to Twitter and questioned how Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah’s name could be placed on the no-fly list.
“How can a chief minister’s name be [on] ECL? What if he has to visit a country on his official work? By this standard Prime Minister Imran Khan should be on ECL too as he is under inquiry in NAB,” she said.
“This is not a government, it is a mob that is demolishing the system,” she added.
How can a Chief Minister’s name be ECL? What if he has to visit a country on his official work? By this standard Prime Minister Imran Khan should be on #ECL too as he is under inquiry in #NAB. This is not a Government, it is a mob that is demolishing the system. #ECLlist
— Nafisa Shah (@ShahNafisa) December 28, 2018
On Thursday, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had also categorically rejected the JIT report’s findings.
“I don’t accept it and the people of this country won’t accept it,” asserted Bilawal while addressing a large crowd of the PPP supporters at the 11th death anniversary of his mother, former prime minister and the slain PPP chief Benazir Bhutto at the mausoleum of Bhuttos in Garhi Khuda Baksh.
“The honourable courts are being fooled, misled and used for the political engineering,” he said but hoped that the Supreme Court, which issued notices to Zardari to submit a reply on December 31 following submission of the report, would eventually reject the JIT’s report as fake.
Meanwhile, the SC Registrar has issued a written order passed by the bench on December 24. Zardari, Talpur and others named in the JIT report have been directed to submit replies within five days.
Zardari’s lawyer Farooq H Naek, close aides Hussain Lawai and Omni Group’s owner Anwar Majeed are also being investigated by the FIA in the matter.
The report stated that a real estate development company was involved in money laundering of Rs10.2 billion, while kickbacks of Rs1.36 billion were laundered through accounts of 19 contractors.
The JIT report also revealed that Rs1.2 billion had been transferred to Zardari’s sister Faryal Talpur from JV Opal account and she had admitted it during her appearance before the team. It claimed this money was spent to procure properties in Tando Allahyar and Lahore.
The report explained that Omni Group had obtained Rs53.4bn loans by setting up different companies because under the banking laws a company could not secure a loan of more than Rs4bn. The report further revealed that expenses of Zardari House were also paid through these companies.
The JIT report further mentioned that Rs1.4bn was sent abroad through illegal means of Hawala/Hundi.
In December 2015, the FIA began discreetly investigating certain bank accounts through which multi-billion rupee transactions were made. According to FIA sources, information regarding the fake accounts came to the fore when an intelligence agency picked up a prominent money changer in an unrelated case.
As the monitoring and investigation of these suspicious accounts continued, it surfaced that five of these accounts in two banks – the Sindh Bank and Summit Bank – had been used for transactions worth around Rs15 billion.
Investigation showed the accounts were operated by fake companies. Funds were credited into these accounts from contractors with multi-billion rupee contracts with the Sindh government. The money was found to have been transferred to accounts of companies owned and operated by the Omni Group, whose chairperson, Anwar Majeed, is a close aide of Asif Ali Zardari. Another beneficiary was Nasir Lootah, the chairperson of Summit Bank and a member of Dubai’s ruling family.
The probe, however, was shelved. It resumed almost a year and a half later. FIA’s State Bank circle initiated 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. 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 FIA submitted its report to the apex court on July 8 which revealed a web of companies and accounts that were being used to transfer billions of rupees.
In all, 29 accounts were identified that received payments, totaling at least Rs35bn.
In August, Anwar Majeed was arrested along with son Abdul Ghani Majeed when they returned to the country on being summoned by the apex court. They are now on judicial remand.
Meanwhile, Asif Zardari and Faryal Talpur have appeared before the investigators and have since secured interim bail from the banking court. The last hearing of the case was on December 21, when the duo got their fourth extension in the bail till January 7.
Amid complaints from the FIA and barbs flying in the Supreme Court, CJP Nisar ordered the formation of a Joint Investigation Team to quicken the pace of the investigation. One of FIA’s principal complaints was the lack of cooperation from the Sindh government.