KARACHI: A day after the arrest of Pakistan Stock Exchange chairman Hussain Lawai in a money laundering case, the Federal Investigation Agency on Saturday found that Rs4.145 billion had been transferred from one of the 29 suspicious bank accounts to 13 firms, including the one linked to former president and Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Zardari, allegedly for money laundering.

Mr Lawai and banker Taha Raza were detained on Friday by the FIA, which accused them of facilitating the opening of ‘fake’ accounts in the Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and United Bank Limited allegedly for laundering Rs35bn.

The FIA lodged one FIR against the held persons and others for opening one fake account in the Summit Bank. They said 28 more FIRs would be lodged soon.

Hussain Lawai, banker Taha Raza remanded in FIA custody

According to the content of the FIR, an Arab national and 12 beneficiary Pakistani companies have been mentioned in the case.

The sources said that the FIA officials had approached the Security Exchange Company of Pakistan (SECP) to obtain details of the 13 firms, which also include the Zardari Group Pvt Ltd.

They said the SECP had informed the FIA that the Zardari Group had been on its list of companies since 1987. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is the chief executive officer of the group and Mr Zardari’s sister Faryal Talpur is its director.

Mr Zardari, his two daughters and another sister have been shown as shareholders of the Zardari Group.

Sources said that an analysis of the group’s accounts revealed that travel ticket bills/payments of Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s foreign visits and others, including payments of model Ayyan Ali’s travel tickets, was made by the Zardari Group to the Fazl-e-Rabbi travel agency through cheques.

The sources said the cheques were given to the travel agency by a brother of former chief of the Sindh Building Control Authority Manzoor Qadir Kaka who is said to be an employee of the Bilawal House in Karachi.

According to the FIR, 15 firms have deposited a total of Rs2.855bn in the bank account. “M/S Bahria Town Karachi project and Zain Malik” (a son-in-law of property tycoon Malik Riaz) had deposited the largest amount i.e. Rs75m.

An FIA official familiar with this case told Dawn on the condition of anonymity that at a later stage the FIA might probe a possible link of the Zardari Group with a ‘currency smuggling case’ against model Ayyan Ali.

A judicial magistrate on Saturday remanded Mr Lawai and Mr Raza in the custody of the FIA till July 11.

On Saturday, the investigating officer produced them before the magistrate and informed that the suspects were allegedly involved in money laundering to the tune of Rs7bn. He requested for their 14-day physical remand but JM Tariq Shahnawaz remanded them till July 11 and directed the IO to submit a progress report and also ensure medical examination of the suspects.

According to the FIR, on a complaint regarding suspicious transaction report in respect of 29 bank accounts, the State Bank Circle of the FIA initiated an inquiry.

The inquiry established that one bank account titled A-One International, a sole propitiator firm, at the Summit Bank Limited’s Khayaban-i-Tanzeem branch, purportedly in name of Tariq Sultan, was fraudulently opened by using his computerised national identity card.

“Subsequently, this bank account was used to place illegitimate funds for the purpose of money laundering,” stated the FIR, adding that the account statement showed that during a short span of 10 months (from March 6, 2014 to January 12, 2015) a sum of Rs4.145bn was credited and routed through this account.

It mentioned that the said amount was transferred to different 13 business entities, including the Zardari Group which received Rs15m.

The largest amount of Rs2.492bn was transferred to the account of a UAE national, Nasser Abdullah Lootah, then vice-chairman and present chairman of the Summit Bank. It further showed that the second biggest transaction of Rs73.782m was made to the account of M/s Ansari Sugar Mills, while Rs5m was transferred to the M/s Omni Polymer Packages (Pvt) Ltd.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2018