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KARACHI: A banking court on Thursday fixed bail applications of Pakistan Stock Exchange’s (PSX) detained former chairman Hussain Lawai and banker Taha Raza in an alleged money laundering case for Aug 16, since the Federal Investigation Agency’s special prosecutor failed to turn up.

Judge Tariq Mehmood Khosa however granted yet more time to the prosecution to argue on the bail pleas before the next date, if they wished so.

Mr Lawai and Mr Raza have been booked for allegedly facilitating the opening of 29 ‘fake’ accounts in Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and United Bank Limited, through which suspicious transactions were made to different companies, including M/s Zardari Group.

In the last hearing, the special prosecutor had expressed his inability to argue on the matter on the grounds that the case record was with Investigating Officer Mohammad Ali Abro, who was ill and did not appear. Therefore, they were granted time for the third time, as a last chance, to argue on the matter.

The court had granted one week’s time to the IO and the prosecutor, as a last chance, for arguments with a caution that the court would decide the matter on its merit in case they failed to make arguments on the next date.

On Thursday, when the judge took up the bail pleas to hear arguments from the IO, the IO moved an adjournment application informing that the special prosecutor could not attend the court since he was ill.

Requesting to adjourn the matter, he proposed that the matter may be fixed on either Aug 13 or 15 to enable them to advance arguments on the bail pleas. After arguments the prosecution might submit documents, if necessary, he added.

On the other hand, the defence counsel — Shaukat Hayat and Syed Haider Imam Rizvi — for the detained suspects vehemently opposed the adjournment request, arguing that the prosecution was employing tactics to unnecessarily delay the proceedings.

They argued that such conduct on the part of the prosecution was a clear violation of the national judicial policy according to which bail matters had to be decided within the prescribed number of days.

The counsel claimed that the IO and the special prosecutor were deliberately avoiding appearing in the court under the pretext of being ill.

The court was told that the defence had completed its arguments on the bail applications on July 24 and since then the matter had been fixed four times for arguments from the prosecution side, but the IO and the prosecutor were not arguing deliberately on the same. The defence counsel pleaded not to give more time and decide the bail pleas on their merit.

Therefore, the judge fixed the matter for Aug 16 to pass an order on the bail pleas.

However, the court once again asked the prosecution to advance arguments on the matter, if they wished so, before the next date.

Better facilities in jail

The court also fixed for Aug 16 another application moved by the detained bankers seeking provision of better facilities in the Landhi Prison.

In the meanwhile, the court also issued notices to the IO and the special prosecutor on the arrested bankers’ third application seeking return of their personal belongings seized by the FIA officials at the time of their arrest.

On July 21, the IO filed an interim charge sheet in the court showing 20 alleged beneficiaries of the suspicious transactions, including Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman and former president of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and others as absconders in the case.

The list also included the names of Abdul Ghani Majeed, Shahzad Ali, Zain Malik and 15 others as absconders.

However, Ms Talpur surrendered before the banking court and obtained interim pre-arrest bail upon expiry of her protective bail granted by the Sindh High Court at its Larkana circuit bench.

The prosecution alleged that one bank account titled A-One International at Summit Bank (Khayaban-i-Tanzeem branch) was used for money laundering to the tune of Rs4.14 billion.

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

It further mentioned that the said amount was transferred to 13 different business entities, including the Zardari Group — a company owned by Mr Zardari and his sister Ms Faryal — which received Rs15 million.

A case was registered against them under sections 419 (punishment for cheating by personation), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine a forged document) and 109 (abetment) of the Pakistan Penal Code read with Section 5(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 and sections 3 and 4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2018