The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday formed a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe alleged laundering of billions of rupees through fake bank accounts in connivance with bankers and others to several suspected beneficiaries, including former president Asif Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur.
PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, his sibling Faryal Talpur and several of their business associates are currently being probed as part of a 2015 case regarding fake accounts and fictitious transactions —which were initially found to have totalled Rs35 billion — conducted through 29 ‘benami’ accounts in Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and UBL.
FIA's Additional Director General (Economic Crime Wing) Ehsan Sadiq has been appointed as the head of the JIT by the apex court.
The other members of the JIT include Brigadier Shahid Parvez of Inter-Services Intelligence, Muhammad Afzal of Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, NAB Islamabad Director Noman Aslam, Majid Hussain of State Bank of Pakistan and Tax Commissioner Imran Latif Minhas.
The JIT, its members and members of the FIA have been directed not to provide the media with any information regarding the investigation.
Moreover, Pakistan Rangers have been tasked to provide adequate security to the team. This has been done to address the DG FIA's apprehensions regarding the JIT's security.
The apex court has given the following mandate to the JIT:
- The JIT shall set up its Secretariat at a place convenient to it.
- The JIT shall have all powers relating to inquiries and investigations including those available in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1908; National Accountability Ordinance, 1999; Federal Investigation Agency Act, 1974 and the Anti Corruption Laws, etc.
- All executive authorities or agencies in the country shall render assistance and provide support to the JIT in its working, if required.
- The JIT shall submit periodic reports before this court qua the progress made in the investigation on fortnightly basis under sealed cover for our examination.
- The Additional Director General, FIA, who shall head the JIT may co-opt any other expert who may in his opinion be necessary to complete the investigation in an effective and timely manner.
- First report of the JIT shall be filed within a period of 15 days from today.
The court has rejected a request to move this investigation to Islamabad at the moment. However, room has been left for the request to be reexamined, should the need arise.
The case will now be heard in the Supreme Court on September 24.
According to the court's order, the JIT has been formed due to reports of "slackness and slow progress" of the case and because of information that the "investigation was being obstructed and hampered".
The director general of the FIA had also told the court that their office was making slow progress in the case due to lack of expertise and because the investigation was being "willfully obstructed at every stage" because of "alleged involvement of high profile and powerful political and business figures in the tainted transactions".
The FIA, in its progress report submitted in the SC, claimed to have identified two more companies belonging to the Zardari Group — M/s Landmarks and National Gases (Pvt) Limited — in connection with the alleged laundering of billions of rupees.
The agency said it came to know of the two companies from a hard disk confiscated during last week's raid on Khoski Sugar Mills — an Omni Group-owned facility whose head Anwar Majeed is a close Zardari confidant.
Earlier this week, while hearing a suo motu case regarding a delay in the FIA probe into the case, the SC had deliberated over the formation of an investigation team, but said that it would only be constituted once the defence and prosecution lawyers conclude their arguments.