SYED Murad Ali Shah leaves the NAB office after his appearance in fake accounts case on Monday.—Online
SYED Murad Ali Shah leaves the NAB office after his appearance in fake accounts case on Monday.—Online

ISLAMABAD: Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Monday appeared for the first time before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the fake bank accounts and money laundering case and recorded his statement.

NAB’s Combined Investiga­tion Team (CIT) grilled the chief minister for one-and-a-half hours, gave him a questionnaire regarding the case and asked him to submit his answers within a fortnight.

According to NAB’s spokesman, the CIT will review answers of the chief minister in the light of relevant laws and decide about his future appearance before the CIT.

“The CIT was conducting investigations under direct supervision of the NAB chairman. NAB believes in logical conclusion of cases and performs its duties to eradicate corruption without caring about any pressure,” the spokesman said. Before Mr Shah, Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and ex-president Asif Ali Zardari appeared before NAB on March 20 in the case.

According to a source in NAB, the chief minister had been summoned on March 27 in Thatta and Dadu sugar mills case but he had asked the bureau that he would appear on March 25.

Syed Murad Ali Shah appears before anti-graft body’s investigation panel in fake accounts case amid tight security

NAB summoned the chief minister in the light of a report of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed by the Supreme Court last year to probe the multibillion rupees money laundering and fake bank accounts case against PPP leaders.

Interestingly, the case has been shifted from Karachi to the Rawalpindi NAB and currently NAB’s Rawalpindi chapter is being headed by its director general Irfan Naeem Mangi who was also a member of the JIT in the Panama Papers case.

According to the JIT report, the Sindh government had allegedly sold Thatta Sugar Mills to the Omni Group for Rs127.5 million in 2013 while its market value was said to be Rs716.11m. Similarly, Dadu Sugar Mills was also a property of the Sindh government and it was acquired by the same group in 2008 at Rs90 million against its original price of Rs626.70 million.

After coming out of NAB office, Mr Shah told the media that the officials questioned him about Thatta Sugar Mills and that he responded to all their queries. He said he had assured the NAB officials of his cooperation in the investigation.

He said the findings of JIT report were not based on facts, as the JIT itself had admitted before the court that its findings were incomplete and the officials needed more time to work on it.

The CM questioned why the case had been transferred from Karachi to Rawalpindi and said he and his party leaders came from Sindh to Islamabad on their own expenses. He said the federal government spent huge money on security and deployment of over 1,000 personnel around NAB building and other points in the capital. “If it was in Karachi, the federal government would not have to spend money on security as in Karachi he could simply visit NAB office without such big security arrangement,” he added.

Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, who along with PPP’s Syed Nayyer Hussain Bukhari, Qamar Zaman Kaira had accompanied Mr Shah to the NAB office, said the government had almost sealed the federal capital on Sindh CM’s appearance before the investigators.

“The PTI government is so afraid of jiyalas that it locked down Islamabad today,” the senator added.

Mr Khokhar said the PPP had not given any call to its workers to gather outside NAB office on the appearance of the chief minister. “When PPP workers have not been called then why the roads were blocked, life of the people was disturbed and why heavy contingent of police and Rangers were deployed there,” he remarked.

According to the JIT report on fake bank accounts, the Omni Group (allegedly owned by Mr Zardari and his close aides) acquired four state-run entities — Thatta Cement Factory, Thatta Sugar Mills, Naudero Sugar Mills and Dadu Sugar Mills — in Sindh at throwaway prices. After release of the report, the federal government placed the names of 172 persons including Mr Zardari, Faryal Talpur, Mr Bhutto-Zardari and Mr Shah, who were allegedly involved in fake bank accounts and money laundering case, on the Exit Control List (ECL) along with real estate tycoon Malik Riaz. Later when the SC questioned the move, the federal government reviewed its decision of travel ban and removed the names of PPP chairman and Sindh chief minister from the ECL.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2019