RAWALPINDI: A customs court here on Thursday indicted model Ayyan Ali for attempting to smuggle out of the country more than half a million dollars in cash. She has pleaded not guilty.
The court has summoned prosecution witnesses on December 8 to record their statements in the currency smuggling case.
Rejecting the arguments of her counsel Sardar Latif Khan Khosa, Judge Rana Aftab Ahmed indicted Ayyan just over eight months after she was arrested.
The special court of customs, excise and taxation had dismissed Ayyan's acquittal plea on Nov 6. She then filed an acquittal plea in the Lahore High Court, which the court admitted for hearing.
The model was arrested on Mar 14, 2015, on charges of money laundering after being caught with over half a million dollars by customs officials at Islamabad's Benazir Bhutto International Airport.
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She was granted bail in July after spending around four months in Rawalpindi's notorious Adiala Jail ─ and after her judicial remand was extended 16 times.
Ayyan, who maintains she is 21 years old, was reportedly booked to travel on a flight to Dubai when customs officials recovered US $506,000 from her luggage before she could board the plane.
Case surrounded by controversy
The case involving Ayyan, a well-known face who has endorsed prominent brands, garnered unprecedented media attention due to her celebrity status and the controversies surrounding it.
The delay in the model's indictment has also been part of the controversy.
The case took a political turn when the airport entry pass of the personal assistant (PA) to a former president was cancelled for allegedly trying to facilitate Ayyan to smuggle over 0.5 million dollars. Later in June, a customs official who was allegedly investigating the money laundering case against the model was shot dead.
The model was granted a category B 'VIP' inmate at Adiala which entitled her to several privileges not available to other inmates because she was "not habitual of a less-than-comfortable lifestyle."
Her counsel, former Punjab governor Sardar Latif Khan Khosa earlier said his client had been arrested on false charges of money laundering. He said the Customs Act lacked interpretation of attempted money laundering. He said the petitioner had not been allowed to record her statement after the arrest, which was mandatory under Section 139 of the act.
Khosa said the petitioner had told the investigators at a very initial stage that she had got the money by selling property. He said the petitioner had carried the money to the airport to hand it over to her brother who was arriving from Dubai the same day.