Govt to act against PPP, PML-N, Malik Riaz over ‘nexus of corruption’

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Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry speaks at a press conference with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar on Monday.—White Star
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry speaks at a press conference with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar on Monday.—White Star

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to tighten the noose around Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Faryal Talpur and Murad Ali Shah of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and property tycoon Malik Riaz after unearthing a “nexus of corruption” among them.

“Malik Riaz is a common factor in corruption nexuses of Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari,” said Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry at a joint press conference with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accou­ntability Shahzad Akbar on Monday.

“The worst thing done by Asif Zardari against his son Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is that he (Zardari) also made Bilawal a director of a company of Omni Group through which the former president committed corruption on a massive scale,” said Mr Akbar.

He said a report of the joint investigation team (JIT) on the Omni Group scam (money laundering allegedly committed by Mr Zardari) that was issued on Monday had suggested 16 corruption references against him and his accomplices.

The PTI leaders said it was for the first time that two main corruption nexuses of the country had been shattered and this time no concession would be given to anyone having links with the nexuses.

PM’s aide claims Zardari made Bilawal director of a company through which the former committed corruption

“Leaders of PML-N and PPP did not even consider that Imran Khan will come into power, therefore they kept on plundering the national wealth,” they added.

They said the government was waiting for a formal request from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) which is probing the Omni Group case and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to put the names of PPP and PML-N leaders on the Exit Control List (ECL). “This should be the first step to be done and the names of Zardari, Bilawal, Nawaz, Shahbaz and Murad Ali Shah should be put on the ECL at once,” said Mr Akbar.

Fawad Chaudhry said the verdict against Nawaz Sharif had endorsed the PTI’s claim that former rulers had plundered the national wealth. He said the deposed prime minister could not prove his innocence at any forum. “He had a chance to prove his innocence in parliament, the Supreme Court and the trial court but he failed to do so at any forum,” he added. The “real face of Nawaz Sharif has been exposed”, he said.

Responding to a question about possible agitation by the PML-N in and outside parliament, the information minister said: “There is no pressure of PML-N in parliament and outside because both PML-N and PPP have no political future as they are disintegrating into several factions,” he claimed.

Fawad Chaudhry said those who were still defending Nawaz Sharif should be ashamed of themselves as it had been proved that the money he had looted belonged to the nation.

Mr Akbar, who is also head of the Assets Recovery Unit, said that according to the JIT report, Mr Zardari, Mr Bhutto-Zardari, Mr Shah, Ms Talpur and former law minister Farooq H. Naek were involved in operating fake bank accounts.

“The JIT report, which was prepared in three months, should become a case study for students as the modus operandi of Omni Group was quite unique and novel,” he said, adding that “the layering (transferring from one bank to another) of laundered money was done even for more than 48 times”.

He said that usually money laundering was done through fake accounts, but the “Zardari and company” had established a full-fledged bank called Summit Bank.

Mr Akbar said Mr Zardari was involved in receiving commission from contractors and a list of contractors who had given commission to him during the past 10 years was also being prepared. “Of Rs2,000 billion development budget of Sindh, Asif Zardari received 35 per cent as commission,” he claimed.

The JIT report linked the fake bank accounts to Asif Zardari, claiming that his personal expenses were also paid through the accounts’ funds.

Mr Akbar said payments for the upkeep of Bilawal House’s pets and 27 sacrificial goats were also made through these fake bank accounts. “Even the meal served to PPP leaders was bought through fake accounts,” he added.

He said expenses of the Zardari family’s residences in both Karachi and Lahore — commonly known as Bilawal House — were also paid through fake bank accounts.

He said Murad Ali Shah, being former finance minister of Sindh and incumbent head of the provincial government, was fully involved in corruption of Asif Zardari. Faryal Talpur and Farooq Naek have also made properties through fake bank accounts, he claimed.

Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2018