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KARACHI: Former president and Pakistan Peoples Party leader Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur on Saturday challenged before the Sindh High Court (SHC) an order of a banking court regarding the transfer of a fake accounts and money laundering case against them and other suspects to an accountability court in Rawalpindi for trial.

The banking court on Friday transferred the money laundering case involving Rs4.14 billion against Mr Zardari, his sister and 17 other suspects to an accountability court in Rawalpindi for trial and observed that the case was a small component of the larger whole and the Supreme Court had already transferred its investigation to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) authorities in Islamabad on the basis of material collected by a Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

The defence counsel, Farooq Naek, on Saturday filed criminal revision applications before the SHC against the trial court’s order. The lawyer contended that the banking court’s order was based on conjecture and contrary to the law applicable to it and the judgements of the superior courts.

Counsel for siblings argues NAB’s transfer plea is based on misreading of Jan 7 apex court order

He also contended that the NAB chairman in his application pleaded for the transfer of the case on the basis of the Jan 7 Supreme Court order, which Mr Naek maintained was incorrect as no such order for transfer of the case in question was passed by the apex court. Therefore, the counsel argued that the NAB’s plea was based on misreading of the apex court order passed on Jan 7.

The Supreme Court had taken a suo motu notice and constituted a joint investigation team to probe the matter. In January, the apex court had referred the JIT report to NAB to launch its probe independently and complete it within two months.

Mr Naek argued that the JIT in its final report had asked the apex court to give directions to NAB to inquire and investigate 16 different issues without mentioning the present case. After perusing the JIT’s request, the apex court in its Jan 7 order passed the directions, the lawyer maintained.

The counsel further argued that the order of the banking court was passed without knowning the fact that all essential persons, documents and witnesses were within the jurisdiction of the court in Karachi and the transfer of the case to Rawalpindi would cause great inconvenience to the accused persons and witnesses. Moreover, it was against the principles of natural justice, he argued.

While naming the NAB chairman and the judge of the banking court as respondents, the defence counsel asked the court to declare the order of the trial court order illegal, unlawful and without jurisdiction. The applicants also asked the court to suspend the operation of the order.

The FIA had named Mr Zardari, Ms Talpur, Omni Group chairman Anwar Majeed, his sons and over 10 others as suspects in the interim charge sheet filed before the banking court in August last year for alleged money laundering of over Rs4 billion after a total of 29 ‘fake’ bank accounts were opened in three banks — Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and United Bank Ltd.

In its report submitted to the apex court, the JIT had recommended a directive for NAB to conduct a thorough inquiry, followed by filing of a reference against Mr Zardari, his alleged frontman Younas Kudwai, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and others in the accountability court to recover the alleged misappropriated amount of Rs1.5bn along with the total outstanding loan of Rs3.74bn in the Park Lane case.

Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2019