Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Sunday held a detailed press conference in Islamabad during which he broke down the trail of corruption allegedly instigated by the two families who have always loomed large in Pakistan's politics: the Sharifs and the Zardaris.
A tweet by Prime Minister Imran Khan, coincided with the press conference in which the premier quoted a saying by French philosopher and economist, Frederic Bastiat, to drive home his point regarding money launderers being taken to task.
Right at the outset of the press conference, the information minister alleged that if there was one family that had marked the beginning of modern-day corruption in Pakistan, it was the Sharif family.
Chaudhry claimed that starting towards the end of 1988 up until the beginning of 1990, the Sharifs had accumulated a lot of wealth and were in a conundrum about "how to manage it and turn it white to use within Pakistan or anywhere else."
"Therefore, in 1992, the Economic Reforms Act was introduced, which had an apparently innocent provision which entailed that the source of money coming from abroad will not be questioned by the authorities," he said.
"In 1996-97 and then 1997-98, the authorities noticed a very suspicious transaction and found that the company behind it was Hudaibiya Papers Mill, which had a total value of Rs95 million. All of a sudden Rs810m worth of foreign remittances were credited to the company's accounts."
An investigation was thus started and it was discovered that the owner of Hudaibiya Paper Mills was Mian Mohammad Sharif, the father of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Chaudhry claimed.
"When the case was torn open in earnest, it was found that an economic hitman, Ishaq Dar, was hired. Dar introduced a novel method for money laundering: fake accounts.
"Money was deposited in these fake accounts and then sent abroad through Hawala Hundi. Thereafter, the money arrived in Pakistan through TT (Telegraphic Transfer) to accounts of 40 individuals, all of whom were related to the Sharifs [including] some very distant relatives.
"All of this was described by Dar under oath to a magistrate in 2008, in a confession which outlined each and every detail," said Chaudhry as he went over the origins of the alleged Sharif corruption trail.
"The period after that is before you. Musharraf's investigation could not continue and the Sharifs were given an NRO," the information minister continued.
"Now why I want to talk about Hudaibiya is because all subsequent cases of corruption followed the exact same scheme. Hill Metal Establishment followed the same method as in Hudaibiya Paper Mills," he said.
"Hussain Nawaz sent around 126,768 euros [...] the overall amount sent by him was around Rs1,165.6 million, through TT to Nawaz Sharif.
"Out of this amount, Nawaz Sharif then gave 820 million to Maryam Nawaz, who then bought agricultural land from the amount," claimed Chaudhry.
Zardari's 'innovative' take
Asif Zardari breathed new innovation into the whole exercise, said the information minister as he moved on to discuss the Federal Investigation Agency's findings on the PPP co-chairman's fake accounts case.
"Whereas here [in the case of the Sharifs], there was the creation of and use of fake accounts, Zardari sahab bought an entire bank for himself," claimed Chaudhry.
Chaudhry alleged an entire network was created in Sindh where fake accounts were created and then money was transferred to people "such as the man who sold falooda (an ice cream dessert) in Faisalabad and saw millions of rupees transferred to his account".
"In all the cases, money was transferred to insignificant people, such as gardeners, drivers, guards, etc. If a person so much as passed by these people (behind the transactions) from afar, their accounts would be targeted and used," claimed the information minister.
"When an investigation began into those accounts, FIA unearthed the involvement of around 5000 accounts of which 32 accounts were the main accounts which branched out to the others," he said.
"Everything was traced to these accounts: payment for Bilawal Bhutto's aircraft expenditures, for Ayyan Ali's tickets, and for the expenditures of Bilawal House. Moreover, Bakhtawar [Bhutto]'s birthday expenses were also paid through these accounts," Chaudhry alleged.
Shahbaz Sharif's 'asset beyond means' investigation
The information minister then unveiled details regarding National Accountability Bureau's investigation into Shahbaz Sharif holding assets beyond known means of income.
"An investigation was started in October 2018 and in November 2018 all of a sudden all the family members started leaving the country," said Chaudhry.
"Authorities noticed that 200 swift messages were generated and $26 million dollars were transferred to the Shahbaz Sharif family," he continued.
He claimed that almost the entire family's income could be traced to telegraphic transfers.
"They weren't earning even a single rupee in Pakistan. Shahbaz Sharif's sole declared income was what he earned as chief minister of Punjab. There was no other [source of] income."
The real beneficiary in all this, was Shahbaz Sharif, he alleged, adding that multiple real estate properties were bought with money obtained through telegraphic transfers.
"This money only came into Pakistan when they needed something [...] this means that this is but a fraction of their wealth stashed abroad."
"If this money is coming from abroad and they have a legitimate business, then there is no problem. But the problem emerges when 200 swift messages are identified and it is found that 70 individuals sent money to Shahbaz, Nusrat, Salman, Hamza and the daughters," he alleged.
"All the people sending money here are either those who do not even exist (a reference to ghost accounts), or do not have the [financial] capability of sending such amounts," claimed the information minister.
"Shahbaz Sharif who used to wave his finger and say that if even one rupee worth of corruption is proven, he will bow out of politics, in actuality does not even own one rupee of his own; all the money is actually yours and mine," he further alleged.
"This was but a summary. It started with Hudaibiya, then Hill Metal, then Zardari sahab's accounts and then Shahbaz Sharif," said Chaudhry, capping his long press conference.
"Of course the people want this menace to be rooted out. But I will say again, this is not just the prime minister's responsibility but one shared by all of us to fight the war [of corruption]."