KARACHI: Sindh Energy Minister Imtiaz Ahmed Shaikh’s name has been removed from the Exit Control List (ECL) in a probe into the ongoing money laundering and fake bank accounts case.
Shaikh was placed on the no-fly list in December last after he was named as one of the suspects in an initial report by a joint investigation team (JIT) probing the case. The PPP leader was amongst the 172 people put on the list in connection to the scam.
However, following the recommendation of the JIT later, his name was removed from the no-fly list.
In December 2015, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) began a discreet investigation into certain bank accounts through which multi-billion rupee transactions had been 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 Zardari. Another beneficiary was Nasir Lootah, the chairperson of Summit Bank.
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 2018, 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 (SC) intervened. The then chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice of the ‘slow progress’ in the money laundering case.
In July the same year, 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, totalling at least Rs35 billion.
In August 2018, Omni Group chief 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.