–JIT counsel says suspects, including Faryal Talpur, amassed wealth through kickbacks, embezzlement of govt funds, crime proceeds
–Requests court to freeze all assets and bank accounts of ‘money laundering cartel’ till final adjudication by accountability court
ISLAMABAD: The joint investigation team (JIT) probing the Rs35 billion fake accounts scam on Saturday requested the Supreme Court (SC) to freeze all 37 assets held by the Zardari Group, Omni Group, former president Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur.
These assets include residential houses such as Bilawal House in Karachi and Lahore apart from Zardari House in Islamabad. Bahria Icon Twin Tower (Clifton, Karachi), Tando Allah Yar Farms, and bulletproof vehicles owned by the former president were also mentioned in the list.
JIT counsel Faisal Siddiqui submitted recommendations to freeze all the aforementioned properties as well as the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman’s assets in New York and Dubai, all the urban and agricultural lands of Taplur and Zardari apart from Omni groups’ sugar mills, agricultural and energy companies and also luxury cars owned by them.
“The prima facie evidence brought to the record during the JIT investigation clearly indicates that Zardari and Omni Groups which started with a paid up capital of Rs600 (1981) and Rs6,000 (2001) respectively amassed assets through misappropriation of loans, government funds, kickbacks and proceeds of crime. The available evidence suggests that these groups have a history of laundering their illegal proceeds abroad through Hundi/ various channels of Hawala,” read the request submitted in the apex court.
“The Supreme Court of Pakistan is requested to freeze the assets of Zardari and Omni Groups held through various subsidiary and front companies and assets held in the name of their directors, pending the final adjudication by the accountability courts: lest this ‘money laundering cartel’, shifts their assets abroad.”
On December 24, the top court banned the sale, purchase and transfer of properties owned by three business groups after the JIT submitted its report revealing that Rs42 billion was laundered through 29 fake bank accounts that had also been used to pay expenses of former president Asif Ali Zardari’s home.
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 head, Federal Investigation Agency’s Additional Director General Ahsan Sadiq, said Zain Malik and Mushtaq Dinshaw were involved in money laundering through fake bank accounts. “Who is this Mushtaq Dinshaw?” the CJP asked.
The official claimed that Dinshaw was the frontman of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari, adding that his name had also figured in model Ayyan Ali’s money laundering case.
He contended that a high-rise in Karachi was being constructed on government land, adding that land of Bagh Ibne Qasim had also been used illegally. Zardari Group has 50 per cent shares in it. He further said the accounts of Dinshaw had also been used for illegal transfer of Rs8.3 billion in alleged kickbacks.
The JIT report 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 Rs53.4 billion loans by setting up different companies because under the banking laws a company could not secure a loan of more than Rs4 billion. The report further revealed that expenses of Zardari’s house were also paid through these companies. The CJP expressed surprise when the court was informed that Rs2.7million payment for sacrificial goats and some amount for pet dogs’ food had also been made by Omni Group. The report claimed that the expenses of the Zardari family’s residences in both Karachi and Lahore, known as Bilawal Houses, were paid through fake bank accounts.
After that, the CJP asked if the Bilawal House in Lahore was secured according to the law. “Who owns the Bilawal House in Lahore?” asked the judge. The JIT head replied at first it was a gift but it was later returned and half the payment of Rs170 million was made to Bahria Town. “It is owned by Zardari now,” he added.
The JIT report claimed misdeclaration of assets by Zardari in his nomination papers submitted in the 2018 general elections. Legal experts said that if JIT’s findings were proven true then Zardari may be disqualified for a lifetime as a lawmaker by the SC under Article 62 (1) (f) of the Constitution.