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ISLAMABAD: In a significant development in the fake bank accounts case against former president Asif Ali Zardari and real estate tycoon Malik Riaz, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested the president and two other senior officials of the Sindh Bank on Wednesday.

According to the bureau headquarters, the Rawalpindi NAB in coordination with the Karachi NAB has arrested the following persons in the fake accounts case in Karachi: Tariq Ahsan, president, Sindh Bank; Syed Nadeem Altaf, executive vice president of the bank; and Bilal Sheikh, former president of the bank currently working as its director. The arrests were made on the orders of NAB Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal.

The anti-graft watchdog will produce the accused before the Accountability Court of Karachi on Thursday (today) to seek their transit remand so that they can be shifted to Islamabad because the entire case has already been shifted to the Rawalpindi/Islamabad NAB.

IHC seeks record on bail plea of ex-KDA director

As many as 172 suspects — including PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Asif Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, former chief minister of Sindh Qaim Ali Shah, incumbent provincial minister Anwar Siyal and Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz — have been nominated in the fake bank accounts case.

A number of arrests have already been made in this case, including the arrest of Asif Zardari and Faryal Talpur.

The names of 172 accused have been placed on the Exit Control List. However, the names of Mr Bhutto-Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah have been removed from the travel ban list on the directives of the Supreme Court.

The Rawalpindi NAB has formed a combined investigation team (CIT) to probe the case. The CIT headed by Irfan Naeem Mangi, Rawalpindi NAB director general, started functioning in January.

The Supreme Court in a judgement directed NAB to file references against the accused in the accountability court of Rawalpindi/Islamabad and not in Karachi.

NAB is investigating the case on the basis of an inquiry conducted by a joint investigation team (JIT) formed by the Supreme Court.

In the JIT report, 172 people are accused of having been involved in operating fake bank accounts and money laundering and the filing of 16 different references against the suspects has been recommended.

According to the Supreme Court’s order of Jan 14, the 172 accused, including Asif Zardari, Faryal Talpur and Malik Riaz, will continue to face travel ban. The apex court had asked the anti-corruption watchdog to conclude its investigation within two months. Those to be found guilty of corruption will have two options: either to face a reference or ask for a plea bargain.

IHC seeks record

The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday asked NAB to produce record of a petition filed by former Karachi Development Authority (KDA) director Najamuz Zaman, who is seeking post-arrest bail in the fake accounts case.

NAB has filed an interim reference against nine persons, including former KMC administrator Mohammad Hussain Syed, former metropolitan commissioners Matanat Ali Khan and Shamsuddin Siddique, former KDA director Najamuz Zaman, additional director Syed Jamil Ahmed, Abdul Rashid, Abdul Ghani and Younus Kidwai.

According to NAB, being public servants, the suspects had allegedly misused their authority and illegally allotted amenities plots to non-entitled persons. The reference alleged that they were involved in illegal allotment of plots reserved for libraries and temple, causing a loss of billions of rupees to the national exchequer.

The prosecution said the KMC had illegally sold the two plots reserved for a public library and a temple in Karachi to Mr Kidwai. These plots could neither be sold nor be used for any other purposes, it added, explaining that the suspect surrendered the two plots when NAB served a notice on him.

Mr Zaman’s counsel, while arguing before the court, said that the above-mentioned amenities plots were disposed of through open auction. He said that the plots were auctioned to Mr Nadeem, a front man of Younus Kidwai who had turned an approver in this case.

The counsel expressed reservations over the investigation and requested the court to order a fair and transparent probe.

The investigation officer stated before the court that accused Zaman had extended undue benefit to Mr Nadeem and did not restore the auctioned plots. He said that the payments for auctioned plots were made through fake accounts.

The court directed NAB to produce the entire record by September 17 and adjourned the hearing.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2019