ISLAMABAD, July 19: The Supreme Court dropped on Thursday proceedings against Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, son of PML-Q leader Pervaiz Elahi, ensnared in the multi-billion-rupee NICL scam after the FIA said it was difficult to prove that the money parked in his accounts was dirty. “In view of the (FIA) report no further action is called for at this stage,” Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said.
A three-judge bench comprising the chief justice, Justice Jawwad S. Khwaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain had taken up the National Insurance Company Limited case which attracted a lot of attention when big names like Moonis Elahi and Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim were said to be entangled in the scam.
It was former additional director general of FIA Zafar Ahmed Qureshi who had unearthed during an initial investigation the involvement of Moonis Elahi who was accused of maintaining foreign currency accounts in EFG Private Bank, UK, having a balance of over ¤£1.2 million and another account in the name of his wife.
Later in a move tinged with political intrigues, the government suspended Zafar Qureshi, apparently to keep him out of the probe and to appease the Chaudhrys of Gujrat.
Mr Qureshi faced the wrath of the government reportedly for recovering Rs1.78 billion from some individuals involved in the NICL scam.
However, the government had to swallow the bitter pill when on Aug 8, 2011 the court ordered quashing the suspension of Mr Qureshi and had to reinstate the officer who later got retired.
Moonis Elahi had also approached the Supreme Court with a request to review its verdict of quashing the suspension order of Mr Qureshi. However, with the retirement of the officer, the petition was withdrawn.
In the meantime, Moonis Elahi was acquitted by a banking court in Lahore on the grounds that he could not be convicted on presumptive charges.
On Thursday, FIA’s Director Legal Muhammad Azam Khan submitted a report and informed the court that the investigation team had found nothing to establish that the money lying in the accounts of Moonis Elahi and his wife were the proceeds of crime. “Mere presence of a certain amount of money in any account will not establish that amount has been laundered.”
Therefore, he said, no further action had been taken by FIA’s field director Lahore in this regard.
“The FIA had the burden to establish that the amount kept in foreign accounts is the proceeds of crime,” the chief justice observed.
Azam Khan also referred to a communication from the Serious Organised Crime Agency of the UK which discouraged the FIA from contacting the agency in this regard.
When he said that there was an international pressure to limit the amount of remittances both inland and outward, the chief justice observed that limiting remittances going to Pakistan should be discouraged because it would help strengthen the financial position of the country.
The court asked Mr Azam to submit a detailed report about the case of former minister Habibullah Warraich, Mohsin Habib Warraich and Akram Warraich who collectively owed Rs420 million to the NICL.
The court was informed that Akram Warraich, director of Farms (Pvt) Limited, had signed a five-year agreement to return the money and presented 10 post-dated cheques to the FIA. But the first cheque for Rs42 million as a guarantee for depositing the liable amount of Rs420 million got bounced on April 4 this year because there were no funds in the account.
“This is a case of sheer dishonesty,” the chief justice observed.
Subsequently, the FIR registered a case against Mohsin Warraich and Akram Warraich on June this year, though they are on bail.
“Let the process of law continue without causing any prejudice,” the court observed. Advocate Ahmed Awais, representing Habibullah Warraich who on Sept 6, 2010 had been quietly allowed to flee to the UK, assured the court that he would try his best to produce his client before the court at the next hearing.
Referring to a report by the Justice (retd) Ghulam Rabbani commission which had implicated PM’s Adviser on Interior Affairs Rehman Malik and PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain for launching a campaign in favour of Moonis Elahi, the court noted that no replies from the respondents had been received yet.
The court also decided to repeat notices in contempt of court cases initiated against former director general of FIA Malik Muhammad Iqbal, former interior secretary Qamar Zaman and former establishment secretaries Abdul Rauf Chaudhry and Khushnood Lashari because none of them appeared before the court on Thursday.
The proceedings were adjourned for three weeks.