ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court announced on Thursday the names of members of a joint investigation team (JIT) formed to conduct a thorough investigation into ‘fake’ bank accounts case that also involves former president Asif Ali Zardari.

The case, meanwhile, took a new turn with the revelation that two more companies that also could have indulged in money laundering of billions of rupees had been identified. At least one of the companies is linked to Mr Zardari.

A late-night order issued by the apex court said the JIT would be headed by Ahsan Sadiq, an additional director general at the FIA. The team would also comprise Imran Latif Minhas, a commissioner at the Regional Tax Office, Islamabad; Majid Hussain, a joint director at the State Bank of Pakistan; Noman Aslam, a director at the National Accountability Bureau; Muhammad Afzal, a director at the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan; and Brigadier Shahid Parvez of the Inter-Services Intelligence.

No representative of the Military Intelligence was included in the team although the FIA had suggested that an official from the organisation would be inducted into it.

Two more companies ‘involved in money laundering’ identified

At the last hearing on Wednesday, a three-judge bench had announced that a JIT would be formed to look into the case but hadn’t named its members.

The JIT has been tasked with unveiling the persons implicated in the case and collect material evidence to ensure that if wrongdoing was committed all those involved will be prosecuted.

The JIT will enjoy all the powers relating to inquiries and investigations, including those available in the Code of Criminal Procedure, National Accoun­tability Ordinance; Federal Investigation Agency Act, 1974; and the Anti-Corruption Laws.

All the executive authorities or agencies in the country will render assistance and provide support to the JIT in its working. The team will be required to submit reports to the apex court regarding progress made in the investigation on a fortnightly basis.

The JIT will also have the authority to co-opt any expert deemed to be necessary to complete the investigation in an effective and timely manner. The JIT is required to furnish its first report within a fortnight.

The FIA and the JIT have been barred from issuing press releases or providing information about the investigation to the media.

The apex court ordered the Pakistan Rangers to provide adequate security to the investigators and to ensure that they perform their functions without any fear. Such protection would also be provided to witnesses if requested.

More companies identified

In a progress report submitted to the Supreme Court, the FIA revealed that two new companies — M/s Landmarks and National Gases (Pvt) Limited — could also be involved in money laundering of billions of rupees.

Mr Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and some of their business associates are being probed in the 2015 case regarding fake accounts and fictitious transactions conducted through 29 ‘benami’ accounts in the Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and United Bank Ltd.

The transactions did not match the profiles of the account holders and they appeared to have acted as instruments for parking illegal money. The case was initially registered in 2015 against former chairman of the Pakistan Stock Exchange Hussain Lawai, who is widely believed to be close to Mr Zardari.

The agency said it came to know about the two companies from a hard disk recovered during a raid on the Khoski Sugar Mills — a factory owned by the Omni Group whose head Anwar Majeed is a confidant of Mr Zardari.

The report said that M/s Landmark was a partnership company of Mr Zardari, Ms Talpur and Azra Fazal Pechuho, whereas M/s NGS was incorporated in the name of Muhammad Adil Khan and a number of shareholders. “From the year 2015, shares are being transferred in the names of Mrs Sara Tareen Majeed and Khawaja Kamal Majeed, both now directors of the NGS along with Muhammad Adil Khan,” said the report.

The FIA said that transactions of the company and its role in laundering money were being analysed.

The agency also named five members of the Omni Group who deposited funds into a Summit Bank account, after which the funds were routed to various banks in London. They were Khawaja Anwar Majeed, Abdul Ghani Majeed, Khawaja Nimar Majeed, Khawaja Mustafa Zulqarnain Majeed and Saima Ali Majeed. So far 5.87 million pounds have been identified to have been transferred to the United Kingdom.

The FIA further alleged that in addition to conventional banking channels funds were laundered via hawala/hundi system for the purchase of moveable and immovable properties abroad.

Mr Zardari, his siblings and their business associates face allegations that they illegally channelled funds through the said accounts to launder them in connivance with the CEOs of major banks.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2018