NAB again summons Bilawal in fake accounts case

Updated February 11, 2020

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The Natio­nal Accountability Bureau (NAB) has summoned Pak­istan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for a third time to record his statement in the fake bank accounts and money laundering case.  — DawnNewsTV/File
The Natio­nal Accountability Bureau (NAB) has summoned Pak­istan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for a third time to record his statement in the fake bank accounts and money laundering case. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: The Natio­nal Accountability Bureau (NAB) has summoned Pak­istan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for a third time to record his statement in the fake bank accounts and money laundering case.

According to the anti-graft watchdog, Mr Bhutto-Zardari has 25 per cent shares in the private firm Opal-225, a joint venture of Zardari Group.

The NAB notice sent to Mr Bhutto-Zardari stated: “You are hereby again called upon to appear before Combined Investiga­tion Team-4 of NAB (Rawalpindi) along with the following record for clarifications and recording your plea on 13-2-2020 at 1100hours without failure.

“Submit attested copies of resolutions of board of directors for the period 01-01-2008 to 01-12-2019 and any other evidence you want to produce in support of your plea. You are advised that failing to comply with this notice may entail penal consequences as provided in section 2 of National Accoun­tability Ordinance-1999.”

PPP meets today to decide its response

The NAB notice, dated Feb 7, said: “In fake bank accounts scam, investigation revealed that you were the CEO of M/s Zardari Group Private Limited (ZGPL) in year 2011 when ZGPL signed a purposed joint venture agreement dated 15-10-2011 with M/s Bahria Town Private Limited (BTPL) Malik Riaz and received Rs1.22 billion from BTPL without consideration in account of ZGPL maintained at Summit Bank, Dolmen City Branch, Karachi.”

“In this regard, you submitted your reply dated 12-6-2019 through your legal counsel. Wherein in response to various questions, you repeatedly took plea that due to your academic and political commitments and presence abroad have never attended/presided any meeting of ZGPL, however the available record reveals that you were present in Pakistan,” the notice said.

It told Mr Bhutto-Zardari that he had repeatedly shown his ignorance about the management affairs of ZGPL, but as per record he had signed the audited accounts of the ZGPL for the years 2011-2016 as CEO of ZGPL and submitted before the FBR that negated his claim he had not been running the ZGPL affairs actively.

The anti-graft watchdog, which has been investigating fake bank accounts and money laundering case against PPP leaders, filed eight references in the Accountability Court, Islamabad, on Dec 9, 2018.

On May 29, 2019, the bureau served a 32-point questionnaire to the PPP chairman during his short appearance in the bureau’s headquarters.

The NAB headquarters had already shifted the fake bank accounts and money laundering case from its Karachi office to Rawalpindi office last year. The investigations in the case are being faced by 172 important personalities, including Mr Bhutto-Zardari, former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, former chief minister Qaim Ali Shah, incumbent minister Anwar Siyal, Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz and others.

Their names were placed on the Exit Control List (ECL), but the names of Mr Bhutto-Zardari and incumbent CM Murad Ali Shah were later removed from the travel ban list on a Supreme Court directive.

PPP reaction

Meanwhile, the opposition party has decided to hold a meeting on Tuesday to decide how the PPP would respond to the notice issued to its chairman. The meeting will be presided over by Mr Bhutto-Zardari.

In a statement, PPP Secretary General Nayyar Hussain Bukhari said the NAB notice was a sign of uncertainty and worries on part of the government after Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s recent announcement regarding the long march.

“If masterminds of inferior tactics could not harm the PPP and its leadership in the past, then how a crippling man can do so,” he said.

He said the party chairman was a voice for the restoration of constitutional, legal and human rights and he could not be stopped from supporting those in distress who had lost shelter, jobs and a square meal.

“NAB is a state institution and it should not become a servant of the rulers [who are] facing corruption cases,” he added.

Mr Bukhari said NAB remained indifferent to the mega scandals of sugar and wheat flour in which leaders of the ruling party were allegedly involved. “Summoning of Bilawal and issuing clean chit to the close aides of the prime minister is a question mark on the performance of NAB,” he added.

Rs178bn recovered

Meanwhile, a meeting of the anti-graft watchdog was informed that NAB filed 600 corruption cases in courts and recovered Rs178 billion in different cases during the tenure of its incumbent chairman Javed Iqbal.

Of 51,591 complaints received last year, NAB addressed 46,123 complaints while action was being taken to settle the remaining 13,299 cases.

The meeting was informed that NAB had accorded approval for conducting verification of 1,464 complaints and verification of 1,362 complaints had been completed.

About the cases under trial before different courts, the meeting was apprised that in all there were 1,275 corruption references involving a sum of Rs944 billion.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2020