Tareen demands a fair team be constituted that works 'according to law, not on someone's phone call'
Former secretary general of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and sugar baron Jahangir Tareen on Saturday called for a free and fair investigation into the money laundering and fraud charges against him.
The estranged PTI leader was speaking to the media outside a sessions court in Lahore. During today's hearing, the court extended the bail of Tareen and his son, Ali, who have been charged with money laundering and alleged fraud, till April 22.
Once again, Punjab lawmakers from the ruling PTI appeared alongside Tareen. Around 22 MPAs and eight MNAs were present to support the sugar baron, including PTI MNA Raja Riaz, provincial minister Nauman Langrial, MPA Nazir Chohan and Khurram Leghari.
Speaking to the media outside the court, Tareen said: "Conduct an inquiry by all means. But the team carrying out the inquiry is biased. It is carrying out the investigation on someone's directions.
"I demand that a fair team be constituted for the investigation which is not mired in controversy and works according to the law, and not on someone's phone call."
Tareen clarified that he was not trying to escape the clutches of the law. "The PTI is my party. It is our party. If we don't stay within the party, where else will we go? But right now we want justice," he said, reiterating that the investigation against him should be fair.
"New people should be brought in [and] a new team should be constituted. Look at this again, it will not make a difference. You have a lot of time. But do not entrust the responsibility to those that give orders on telephone calls."
Tareen, however, did not elaborate who was involved in these phone calls.
He stated that the FIRs registered against him were drawn up in Islamabad and sent to Lahore on a USB where they were signed.
"This should not happen. The investigation should be carried out in a fair and objective manner."
'We are not blackmailers'
Meanwhile, PTI MNA Raja Riaz said that the lawmakers standing alongside Tareen stood in solidarity with him, adding that Prime Minister Imran Khan was their "leader and captain".
"All those lawmakers that have gathered here today have one request to make. PM Imran there are people around you that are targeting Tareen, an extremely valuable asset to the party."
Fake cases have been registered against him, Riaz said.
"Don't think we are trying to blackmail you. We are not blackmailers, we are sympathisers. We want to see the party become strong. We want to see the PTI government and PM Imran be strong and secure."
He said that those conspiring against Tareen were also conspiring against the PTI and the prime minister.
"That is why there is no need to get emotional or angry," he said, adding that they were asking for insaaf from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf.
Provincial minister Nauman Langrial said that the lawmakers had gathered in solidarity with Tareen and to support him. He said that Tareen had helped those gathered during tough times and made them a part of the PTI.
He stated that all Punjab lawmakers gathered alongside Tareen would support and help him while also working to strengthen the party.
"We can't see beyond the party. We want to strengthen it," he said, adding that there were elements that wanted to weaken the party and the country.
He appealed to "friends" of the PTI to lend their support to Tareen. "We want justice," he said.
MPA Nazir Chohan said that the lawmakers gathered here were the same that had stood alongside the prime minister during his dharna and had worked day and night for the party. "We stand here today for one of your workers because we value each PTI worker and leader more than our own lives."
He called on the premier to come and listen to their demands. "You are our elder and the prime minister. Who else do we approach if not you?" He also dismissed rumours of a "forward bloc".
"You were the one who taught us to stand up for what is right. When you have taught us this, then how can we move back? Please call all of us [to you] and hear our grievances. "
He added that the lawmakers were members of the PTI. "Do not think of us as other. We are not working on someone's agenda."
He also questioned the role of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Interior and Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar. “I am an MPA from Lahore. I will live and die here. What is Shahzad Akbar's qualification," he asked.
“These people will leave the country and only we will remain,” Chohan, urging the prime minister to hear their complaints.
Eight MNAs, over 10 MPAs attend Tareen’s dinner
A day earlier, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had grilled Tareen and his son Ali Tareen on the money laundering and fraud charges in the sugar scam and got 36 bank accounts of his (Tareen) and his family members frozen.
Unlike his appearance before a special court for banking offences for the extension of his pre-arrest bail a few days ago, Tareen chose to visit FIA’s Lahore headquarters alone on Friday and threw a dinner for around two dozen party lawmakers, including two ministers, at his residence in the evening.
As Prime Minister Imran Khan was also in Lahore, sources said he was assured during a discussion with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on the PTI lawmakers, who had accompanied Tareen to court recently to express solidarity with him, that the group would lose their political clout once his bail was cancelled and he was taken into custody.
“PM Khan has been told about the ‘exact number’ of those PTI lawmakers who are standing with Tareen. However, Imran Khan seems to be in no hurry to initiate any action against them [despite] knowing that this may bring further trouble for him,” a PTI insider said.
“For Tareen, time is running out fast to explore other political options for him,” he said, adding Tareen still enjoyed ‘good relations’ with the establishment that was why a good number of PTI lawmakers were firmly standing behind him. “The powers that be will not wish to let ‘this important asset’ wasted so easily,” he remarked.
Tareen, son booked for money laundering
Last week, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had registered two more FIRs against Tareen and his family members facing over Rs5 billion money laundering and fraud charges in the sugar scam.
The FIA’s Lahore circle had registered both the FIRs against the estranged PTI leader, his son Ali Tareen, son-in-law and others on March 22 and sealed them. However, it had opened the FIRs last week ‘on an order from the top’ and initiated legal proceedings against those nominated.
A total of four FIRs have been registered against Tareen and others since November last in connection with the multi-billion-rupee sugar scam but the FIA has yet to lay its hands on them.
According to the new FIRs, Jahangir Tareen “fraudulently misappropriated shareholder’s money after his company, JDW group, transferred Rs3.14bn to an associated private company — Farooqi Pulp Pvt Ltd (FPML), Gujrat, which is owned by his son and close relatives.
“During 2011-2012 when fraudulent investments were made being pumped into FPML accounts, Treen, his son Ali and other family members purchased US dollars from the open market in Lahore in a structured manner (keeping each transaction below FMUs STR/CTR reporting threshold of US$35,000 to avoid detection). Subsequently, in 2016, Ali Tareen remitted US$7.4m to the UK for the purchase of properties (to be investigated) which makes them liable for anti-money laundering investigation.”
The FIA said: “A premeditated scheme of misappropriation of public shareholders’ money by Jahangir Tareen has surfaced whereby voluminous withdrawals amounting to at least Rs2.2 billion were fraudulently and dishonestly made through a trusted cash rider Amir Waris (from 2017 to 2020). Waris employed as a cashier at JDW’s Corporate Head Office, deposited huge cash amounts into the personal and business accounts of Tareen and his family members including females.” The FIR mentioned the names of the Tareen family women on whose accounts a huge sum of money had been deposited.
It said: “This modus operandi of cash-based misappropriation and money laundering was employed to break the onwards money trail of deposits into personal and business accounts of the accused Tareen and family.”
Both FIRs were registered under sections 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating of public shareholders) and 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), read with sections 3/4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act against all those mentioned in the FIRs.