ISLAMABAD: Following in the footsteps of former president Asif Ali Zardari, Anver Majid and Abdul Ghani Majid of the Omni Group also filed in the Supreme Court on Wednes­day a petition seeking review of its Jan 7 order of referring Joint Investigation Team’s (JIT) report and evidence collected in the 35 billion fake bank accounts case to the National Accoun­tability Bureau (NAB) for further investigation.

Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairperson Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur had moved the apex court on Jan 28 with the same request.

In its Jan 7 order, the Supreme Court had also ordered NAB to associate JIT members for further probe, inquiry or investigation against 172 individuals allegedly involved in money laundering through fake bank accounts.

The petition moved by Omni Group owners through Advocate Ayesha Hamid contended that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had caused a hugely damaging media campaign against the petitioners through selective leakages of the progress reports leading up to JIT’s final report, though these progress reports were not given to the petitioners to rebut the allegations made. Thus the presumption of innocence was set at naught, it said, adding that the final JIT report was wholly based on unreasonable and unwarranted assumptions.

“It is assumed, without identifying the role of the petitioners, that all transactions in the allegedly fake accounts are the proceeds of crime,” the petition argued, adding that by way of example every loan taken or subsidy received was assumed to be the proceeds of crime.

“If deposit vouchers are not available with concerned banks it is assumed that traces of crime have been obliterated and so on,” the petition regretted, adding that all this had been done to justify that all the moveable and immovable assets and accounts of the Omni Group and the petitioners’ family might be frozen i.e. that the petitioners and their families be pauperised without trial.

“By freezing the accounts of all companies of Omni Group, a majority of which have no connection whatsoever with the alleged fake accounts, the FIA has done its best to engineer a default of all bank loans taken by these companies and to bring their working to a halt with highly damaging consequences for the employees, for all allied businesses and for the economy.

“It is therefore submitted with respect that the Supreme Court order of Jan 7 should contain an affirmation that the petitioners must be presumed to be innocent, that they are entitled to a fair trial and due process, that the FIA/NAB may not under any circumstances besmirch the reputation of the petitioners during the process of inquiry and investigation and trial and not convert their role as prosecutors into the role of persecutors,” the petition contended.

“Further that nothing be done to inhibit or impair the lawful working of the uninvolved businesses of the petitioners and their family members and that nothing in this apex court’s order of Jan 7 be construed as approval or endorsement of the baseless findings of JIT report and that the concerned agencies should inquire/investigate in a fair and impartial manner without being influenced in any manner by the contents of Jan 7 order,” it said.

The petition argued that the Supreme Court decision of constituting an implementation bench presupposed that NAB would file a reference against the petitioners when this decision was virtually a directive for NAB to file the reference as per the JIT report and foreclosed an independent inquiry.

The petition also questioned apex court order for NAB to associate the JIT in its investigations and continue probing other allegations against the petitioners. This decision of constituting the implementation bench and the directive for NAB to associate the JIT in all inquiries/investigations and that the JIT should continue its inquiries into other allegations merited to be recalled, the petition emphasised.

It argued that the issues highlighted constituted errors and omissions floating on the surface of the Jan 7 order which justified review.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2019