KARACHI: A banking court on Monday dismissed the bail applications of former Pakistan Stock Exchange chairman Hussain Lawai and banker Taha Raza in a case pertaining to alleged money laundering.
Judge Tariq Mehmood Khosa pronounced his order, which was reserved on Aug 19 after hearing arguments from both sides and examining the material collected by the investigating officer of the Federal Investigation Agency.
Suspects Lawai and Raza have been booked and arrested for allegedly facilitating 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 order, the judge observed that it was also important to note that the case was under investigation and the accused on the basis of material collected during the investigation so far were apparently connected with the commission of the crime.
The FIA was told not to interrogate a suspect at night-time
“Hence, I do not find them entitled for grant of bail,” the court ruled.
The judge further observed that the IO had also shown apprehension of tempering with the evidence by the accused persons, if they were released on bail.
The judge also observed that Mr Lawai could not be granted bail only because of his old age.
“Therefore, I am of the opinion that at this stage both the accused are not entitled to grant of post-arrest bail. Hence, the instant application filed on behalf of the accused Hussain Lawai and Taha Raza are hereby dismissed,” the order concluded.
The FIA had detained Mr Lawai and Mr Raza in connection with an alleged money laundering inquiry.
The account statement showed that during a short span of 10 months (from March 6, 2014 to Jan 12, 2015) a sum of Rs4.145 billion was credited and routed through an account. The said amount was transferred to 13 different business entities, including the Zardari Group — a company owned by Mr Zardari and his sister Faryal — which received Rs15 million.
The detained bankers moved bail applications through their counsel — Shaukat Hayat and Syed Haider Imam Rizvi — who argued that the inquiry initiated by the FIA had no connection with Mr Lawai, who was Summit Bank’s president during 2014-15.
The president’s functions/duties were confined to the extent of implementation of the policies of the bank and he performed no function to deal with or had any knowledge of daily transactions of any account of any branch, they added.
The defence counsel argued that in the contents of the FIR it mentioned that Adeel Shah Rashidi sent the documents to corporate department for approval/consent where Taha Raza, unit corporate head, sent back the documents with remarks “referred by Hussain Lawai” and directions to open the account, they added.
Hence, it was not established that the bankers opened fake/forged account by fraudulently obtaining signature of the account holder, they said, adding that there was no document purported to have been written, signed and directed by Mr Lawai, who was a 72-year-old sick person.
The defence counsel alleged that the FIA conducted the inquiry in violation of the FIA Act, FIA Enquiry and Investigation Rules, 2002.
They added that the provisions of relevant sections of the Pakistan Penal Code, Section (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 read with Section 3 and 4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010 were not attracted to the facts and circumstances of the case, as there was no allegation of forgery or manipulation of the documents against the detained bankers.
Assuring that there was no likelihood of the bankers to abscond, the counsel pleaded to release them on bail and cited various orders of the apex court in this regard.
On the other hand, Public Prosecutor Mumtaz Malik argued that one fake bank account titled A-One International was opened in the name of Tariq Sultan at the Summit Bank’s Khayaban-i-Tanzeem Branch, Karachi.
During enquiry/investigation, Sultan denied the opening of the account and the signature available on the account opening form was found to be different from his signature in the report of a technical expert.
He argued that in the documents of the account it was mentioned that the same belonged to the Omni Group and accused Arif Khan operated this account. The filled-in form was provided by accused Aslam Masood of the Omni Group; both are signatories of the Omni Group, he added.
He submitted that in a short span of 10 months Rs4.5bn were credited and routed through this account, which was operated by the Omni Group for the purpose of money laundering in connivance with the two suspects and other bank officials.
Had the transactions been clean and legitimate, the amounts might have been directly transferred to the beneficiaries’ account without routing through an intermediary fake account, the prosecutor said.
IO Mohammad Ali Abro argued that the bank account in question was opened on the basis of fake and forged details using the computerised national identity card of Sultan and in order to avoid accuracy of his signature a form was submitted with the bank for the purpose of change of signature other than the CNIC.
He said the account was operated by the Omni Group through which Rs4.58bn were routed. He mentioned that in the FIR and charge sheet 15 accounts had been shown as contributory or depository accounts while 13 others were shown as beneficiary accounts.
He stated that he had also retrieved some of the WhatsApp and email messages between Mr Lawai and other co-accused, which also corroborated the allegations made against him.
He added that one laptop was also seized and sent to a technical expert for retrieval of the data and a report was still awaited.
FIA asked not to grill suspect in night
The court also directed FIA investigators to refrain from torturing or interrogating another detained suspect, Abdul Ghani Majeed, during night hours.
Majeed along with his father Anwar Majeed, has also been booked and arrested in the alleged money laundering case. He had moved an application against alleged torture by the FIA investigators in custody.
His counsel Farooq H. Naek said his client was being subjected to torture in custody and not being allowed to sleep at night.
Meanwhile, the IO moved an application stating that co-accused elder Majeed was remanded in FIA custody by the trial court, but he fell sick and was admitted to a hospital for treatment.
The IO pleaded the court not to consider the time the detained suspect would spend in the health facility as part of his physical remand since he could not be interrogated in hospital.
To a court’s query, the IO said that the doctors examined the suspect in custody and suggested shifting him to hospital for medical treatment, thus their suggestion could not be ignored.
The IO pleaded to consider the days the suspect would spend in hospital as part of the judicial remand, adding that his physical remand may be calculated from the day he would be discharged from the hospital.
However, the court took his application on record but deferred its order/direction in this regard.
SHC grants pre-arrest bail to three suspects
The Sindh High Court on Monday granted protective pre-arrest bail to three sons of Anwar Majeed, a close aide to former president Asif Ali Zardari, in the money laundering scam.
The FIA had named Khawaja Ali Majeed, Khawaja Nimar Majeed and Khawaja Mustafa Zulqarnain in the Rs4.14bn money laundering case.
The petitioners approached the SHC for obtaining pre-arrest protective bail.
Their counsel Farooq Naek submitted that his clients had nothing to do with the offence and were willing to cooperate with the investigation.
He submitted that other co-accused Shahzad Jatoi, Asif Ali Zardari and Faryal Talpur had already been granted protective bail.
A division bench, headed by Justice Abdul Maalik Gaddi, granted them pre-arrest protective bail for 10 days against the surety of Rs500,000 each.
Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2018