ISLAMABAD: In a significant development related to the fake bank accounts case against the leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Rawalpindi, on Wednesday arrested the accountant of a firm owned by former president Asif Ali Zardari.
According to the anti-graft watchdog, Mohammad Hanif was accountant of Park Lane Estates and also a secretary in Parthenon, a front company of Park Lane.
Allegedly involved in misappropriation of bank loans obtained by Parthenon, Hanif was one of the prime accused in the case against the holders of public office, legal persons and others in the fake bank accounts scam.
NAB investigators said the principal accused in the case, in connivance with Mohammad Hanif, managed to obtain Rs1.5 billion loan from the Habib Bank Limited, withdrew the proceed in cash and got prepared pay orders in the name of fictitious persons to hide the beneficial owners.
The case against PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur, former Sindh chief minister Qaim Ali Shah, incumbent provincial minister Anwar Siyal, Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz and others had been shifted from Karachi to NAB’s Rawalpindi office a couple of months ago.
Their names had been placed on the Exit Control List (ECL). However, the names of Mr Bhutto-Zardari and incumbent Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had been removed from the ECL on the directive of the Supreme Court.
The NAB Rawalpindi had also formed a combined investigation team (CIT) to probe the case. Headed by NAB Rawalpindi Director General Irfan Naeem Mangi, the CIT had started its function in January.
The apex court had in a recent judgement directed the anti-graft watchdog to file references against the accused in the accountability court of Rawalpindi/Islamabad, and not at Karachi.
In this specific case, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar had said NAB would not go for inquiry but would start investigation on the basis of inquiry conducted by a joint investigation team (JIT) formed by the Supreme Court.
In the JIT report, 172 people have been accused of having fake bank accounts and money laundering and recommended filing of 16 different references against them.
According to the SC order issued on Jan 14, the 172 accused persons, including the former president, his sister and Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz, will continue to face the travel ban. The apex court asked NAB to conclude its investigation within two months which means that those found guilty of corruption would have two options: face a reference or ask for a plea bargain.
The government claimed that investigations into the fake accounts scam had been launched in 2015 by the then interior minister of the PML-N government, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, and negated the opposition’s claim that it was the ruling party’s attempt for arm-twisting of the leaders of opposition parties.
Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2019