KARACHI: Interim bail of former president Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur was extended till Jan 7 in a case pertaining to alleged laundering of Rs4.14 billion through 29 ‘fake’ bank accounts after a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) prosecutor on Friday sought time for filing a final charge-sheet against them.
Amid rising apprehension about the possible arrest of the siblings, senior leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party including Syed Khursheed Shah, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Saeed Ghani, Rehman Malik and a large number of party activists had gathered on the premises of a banking court since morning.
Slogans in their favour filled the air when the ex-president with his sister and around 11 other suspects in the case arrived at the banking court to appear before Judge Tariq Mehmood Khoso. The charged activists continued to chant slogans in favour of Mr Zardari and Ms Talpur outside and inside the packed courtroom, leading the judge to order them to maintain the decorum and leave the courtroom.
Prosecutor seeks time to file final charge-sheet in accounts case; PPP deplores leak of JIT report contents
At the outset, FIA’s prosecutor Mumtaz Malik informed the court that a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the case had submitted its report in the Supreme Court. The prosecutor said he was awaiting orders from the apex court and requested for time to submit the final charge-sheet against the suspects.
Granting the request, the judge adjourned the hearing till Jan 7, extending interim bail of the ex-president, his sister along with around 11 other suspects till then.
Earlier, the judge directed the investigation officer to expedite the process of proclamation and attachment of the properties of five absconding suspects, including UAE national Nasser Abdulla Hussain Lootah, till the next date.
Besides the ex-president and his sister, real estate tycoon Malik Riaz’s son-in-law Zain Malik and 14 other bankers and businessmen have been booked in the case, while former chairman of the Pakistan Stock Exchange Hussain Lawai, Taha Raza, Anvar Majeed and Abdul Ghani Majeed have been detained for their alleged involvement in facilitating the transactions.
Dispelling apprehensions about their immediate arrest by the FIA, defence counsel Farooq H. Naek said: “Mr Zardari and Ms Talpur cannot be arrested until the final charge-sheet is submitted in the court.”
‘JIT report leak’
While the apex court is scheduled to take up the JIT report at its Lahore registry on Dec 24, its contents were being leaked from time to time, PPP leader Khursheed Shah said, deploring “the media trial of his party”.
The senior leader said: “We have seen the court’s good and bad eras and their good and bad decisions. We are mentally prepared for everything, but our media trial is being conducted.”
The PPP leader said that no one had seen the JIT report, as its contents were being leaked from time to time that amounted to media trial of the party.
“The media trial before the judicial trial forms the minds of the people,” he said and regretted that the sub judice matters were discussed in the media while Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) acted as a silent spectator.
Detained businessmen, banker
Earlier, prison officials informed the court that while two detained suspects Abdul Ghani Majeed and former PSE chairman Hussain Lawai had been shifted to the Adiala jail, Rawalpindi, for interrogation by the SC-appointed JIT, the detained businessman, Anvar Majeed, could not be produced before the banking court due to his ailment.
The judge sought written explanation from the Landhi prison’s superintendent regarding non-production of both the suspects despite issuance of their production orders on the last date.
Initially, the FIA detained ex-PSE chief Lawai and Taha Raza in July for allegedly facilitating opening of 29 ‘fake’ bank accounts in three private banks. A case was later registered against all the suspects under Sections 419 (cheating by impersonation), 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 Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 and Sections 3 and 4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010.
Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2018