ISLAMABAD: Former president Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur on Monday appeared before a joint investigation team of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and recorded their statements in a case pertaining to alleged money laundering committed through ‘fake’ bank accounts.
This was for the fourth time in the recent past when Mr Zardari, who is also co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, and his sister were summoned by the FIA, which would submit its report to the Supreme Court on Tuesday (today).
While there was no official word from the investigation team about the ex-president’s visit to the FIA headquarters, reports circulating in the media stated that a questionnaire was given to them and they were asked to submit their response on their next visit.
PPP rejects reports that a questionnaire was given to siblings by investigators; ex-president says case was filed at Nawaz’s behest
However, PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira, who accompanied them during their visit to the office, told a press conference that the investigation team had not provided any questionnaire to Mr Zardari and his sister.
During their 35-minute stay at the FIA headquarters, the ex-president and his sister recorded their statements in the case that they said was fabricated by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supremo Nawaz Sharif for political victimisation.
Former prime ministers Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf and Senator Sherry Rehman also accompanied the party co-chairman to the FIA headquarters, where strict security arrangements were in place.
While leaving the FIA office, Mr Zardari briefly talked to the media and said the ‘fake’ case was made against him and his sister during the tenure of Nawaz Sharif. “It was filed at the behest of Mian Sahab.
“The FIA people can ask whatever they want but facts speak otherwise,” he maintained.
Later, addressing a press conference, PPP leaders Qamar Zaman Kaira, Chaudhry Manzoor and Nayyar Bokhari denied the allegations against the party leadership and said it had been misreported that Mr Zardari had been grilled by the FIA team.
“In fact Mr Zardari and Ms Faryal are among the witnesses and not the accused,” he added.
He requested Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to take action over misreporting of the case.
Mr Kaira said the ex-president had not been handling the affairs of the Zardari Group of Companies since 2008 when he assumed the office. He said Ms Faryal did answer FIA questions as she had been handling the group for the past one decade.
Senior PPP leader Chaudhry Manzoor said Mr Sharif had made the case against his rivals in 2014-15.
Rejecting the PML-N allegation that Mr Zardari was being pressurised for an underhand “deal”, Mr Manzoor said: “Those who had left the country [Nawaz Sharif] for Saudi Arabia under a deal should not level such baseless allegations against the PPP leadership.”
In a letter addressed to Pemra, PPP secretary general Farhatullah Babar claimed that contrary to the media reports, Mr Zardari and Ms Talpur had not been given any questionnaire by the FIA.
“It is not correct that Asif Zardari was asked some questions about the Zardari Group of Companies. It is also wrong to say that both Zardari and Faryal Talpur were handed over questionnaires,” the letter stated.
The siblings face the allegations that they had illegally channelled funds through some fake accounts in connivance with the heads of major banks. They are being investigated in the case pertaining to fake accounts and fictitious bank transactions of Rs35 billion.
The case was initially registered in 2015 against former Pakistan Stock Exchange chairman Hussain Lawai who is said to be close to the former president.
Earlier, Mr Zardari and Ms Talpur had obtained protective bail in the case, expressing lack of trust in the investigation team. In his bail application, Mr Zardari claimed that FIA director general Bashir Ahmed Memon was the brother of a candidate of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) — an anti-PPP alliance in Sindh — and FIA’s additional director general Najaf Mirza against whom the petitioner had lodged an FIR in 2005 for a murder assault was a cousin of his political rival Dr Zulfiqar Mirza.
On Aug 15, the FIA arrested Anwar Majeed, said to be a close aide of Mr Zardari, and his son on the premises of the Supreme Court after they appeared before the court in the case.
Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2018