PPP leader Faryal Talpur, the sister of former president Asif Zardari who was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) earlier this week, was arrested by NAB officials in Islamabad on Friday in connection with a case pertaining to money laundering through fake accounts, a NAB spokesman said.
A five-member NAB team including female investigators is at Zardari House, Islamabad, which was notified as a sub-jail by the NAB chairman earlier today "for the purposes of detention of accused under the NAO, 1999", according to a notification issued by the accountability watchdog.
PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari was arrested on Monday after cancellation of his and Talpur's pre-arrest bail by the Islamabad High Court in the fake bank accounts case, prompting a strong reaction from the opposition and sporadic protests by PPP workers in various parts of the country, mostly in Sindh.
The NAB said the grounds for arresting Zardari included whitening ill-gotten money through fake accounts, acquiring stakes in Summit Bank through fraudulent means, using Omni Group as a hedge between himself and fake accounts, receiving millions of rupees from two fake accounts, and getting unauthorised payments released for construction of a Karachi plot.
Zardari is currently on physical remand in NAB custody. NAB sources told DawnNewsTV that investigators, after their questioning of Zardari, had concluded that Talpur's arrest was "unavoidable".
Zardari spent 11 years in jail on corruption and murder charges before becoming president in 2008. But he was never convicted and has continued to deny any wrongdoing.
According to Radio Pakistan, Talpur will be produced before an accountability court tomorrow to seek her physical remand.
'Govt targeting opposition'
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, at a press conference following the arrest, accused the government of "using blackmail and pressure to run institutions, of which NAB is only one example".
He claimed that his father and aunts' arrests were announced on dates that a budget and Pakistan Economic Survey were to be presented "so that people's attention is diverted away from the government's economic terrorism".
He alleged that the government "knows they don't have a majority and their government can fall at any time, that's why they have targeted the opposition".
"If they pass the budget this way, without issuing production orders for all MNAs, it is rigging," he said.
The fake accounts saga
In 2015, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had launched a probe into fake accounts and fictitious transactions conducted through 29 ‘benami’ accounts in Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and UBL on the basis of a tip-off.
Initially, seven individuals, including Zardari and Talpur, were said to be involved in using those accounts for suspicious transactions. The accounts were allegedly used to channel funds received through kickbacks.
Later, the apex court took a suo motu notice on the delay in the FIA probe into the case. The SC also constituted a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe into the matter.
The JIT during the course of investigation uncovered 33 more suspicious accounts linked to the case, while nearly 170 individuals linked to the case were put on the no-fly list.
According to a report submitted in the court, 210 companies were also found to have alleged links to the case. As many as 47 of these companies and 334 people were associated with the Omni Group — owned by a close aide of Zardari. At one stage, the top court had frozen all assets and accounts of the group.
The accountability watchdog and the FIA allege that an account titled M/s A One International was fake and it received a sum of Rs4.4 billion out of which Rs30 million were paid to the Zardari Group at two different times.
The FIA had filed the case before a banking court in Karachi which had issued an arrest warrant for Zardari. Subsequently, the PPP leader had obtained protective/transitory bail from the IHC on August 18, 2018. Later, the case was shifted from the accountability in Karachi to an accountability court in Islamabad as the investigators accused the PPP of influencing the case.
During the course of the investigation, on April 8, two accused in the case — Kiran Aman and Noreen Sultan — became approvers against Zardari and Talpur.
Several close friends of Zardari were arrested in the case, while the PPP chief and his sister Faryal Talpur were on an interim bail which was extended multiple times before being rejected on Monday. Both Zardari and Talpur are on bail in at least seven other cases of corruption and malpractice.