Ex-FIA chief grilled for ‘aiding’ foreign financial crime suspect

Published January 2, 2022
This file photo shows former director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Bashir Memon, speaking to Geo News. — Screengrab courtesy DawnNewsTV
This file photo shows former director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Bashir Memon, speaking to Geo News. — Screengrab courtesy DawnNewsTV

LAHORE: Former Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) chief Bashir Memon on Saturday appeared before an inquiry team for allegedly facilitating a suspect wanted in financial crimes abroad and also for his failure to probe the money laundering allegations against the person.

Two officials of the Foreign Ministry also appeared before the FIA Lahore probe team through video link over their alleged failure in getting the suspect extradited.

The agency has also decided to summon former FIA director general Said Mirza in these cases to ascertain the actual reasons behind the aforesaid failure.

“Mr Memon appeared before a combined investigation team headed by FIA Punjab Director Dep­uty Inspector General Muha­m­mad Rizwan via video link. He was quizzed about allegedly facilitating Omar Farooq Zahoor in two cases of financial crimes in Zurich and Oslo, and human trafficking during his tenure as the FIA director general,” an official told Dawn. He said the meeting ended abruptly as Mr Memon left when pushed for answers.

Two Foreign Ministry officials also questioned for ‘failing’ to get Zahoor extradited from UAE

“Two Foreign Ministry officials — Middle East Director Saeed Sarwar and Dubai Deputy Consul General Giyan Chand — also appeared before the FIA team and responded to allegations as to why they did not help the agency extradite the suspect (to Pakistan),” he said, adding the suspect was currently in the UAE and the officials in question did not cooperate with the agency.

Mr Memon, who also secured a pre-arrest bail in one of the cases, told Dawn he had sought record from the FIA of the allegations in these cases. “I will respond to the allegations once I get the record,” he said, adding that the notice the FIA served on him was self-explanatory about the intentions behind it.

“I am being questioned about why I did not probe the cases registered in 2004 and 2011 being the FIA DG in 2017. After my retirement, Wajid Zia assumed the top spot. I wonder whether the same (questions) are being asked of him or someone else,” he remarked.

Earlier, Mr Memon was granted 15-day protective bail by the Sindh High Court (SHC) in the case of allegedly facilitating international fugitive Zahoor. A division bench of the SHC directed him to deposit a surety bond of Rs50,000 and surrender before the trial court in Lahore to seek pre-arrest bail within the stipulated period.

The petitioner through his counsel approached the SHC stating that the FIA’s Lahore director had issued him a notice on Dec 24 seeking information about three cases lodged at the FIA corporate crime circle relating to money laundering, child abduction and fraud.

However, he maintained, none of the cases were in his possession as he ceased to be the FIA chief in December 2019, and during his two-year tenure he was not a record keeper of the Interpol National Central Bureaus (NCBs). Memon submitted to the SHC that the allegations for not conducting investigation in the cases were not possible as the alleged offences were committed in a foreign country from 2004 to 2015.

Citing the FIA DG and Lahore director as respondents, the petitioner apprehended that he might be arrested by the agency and framed before approaching the trial court due to “political reasons” and pleaded for protective/transitory bail for four weeks.

Mr Memon has been in the news for some time after he made an explosive claim that during his tenure, he was summoned to the “highest office” in the country and told to file a terrorism case against members of PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz’s social media cell after a picture of the premier’s wife (Bushra Bibi) was circulated online. He also alleged that he was pressured to aggressively pursue corruption cases against PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif and his family.

Memon’s allegations that he was pressured by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Law Minister Farogh Naseem and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior and Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar to initiate a case against Justice Qazi Faez Isa prompted the government to take him on and alleged the former DG had misused his authority to set up three industries in the tax-free tribal areas.

In a summons to Mr Memon, the FIA Lahore said it was conducting an investigation into various international financial crimes of serious nature leading to transnational money laundering by suspect Umar Zahoor for which he was required by various countries, including Norway, Switzerland and Turkey, since 2009-10, but he had been evading apprehension despite multiple requests made by NCBs of Interpol.

“The matter is currently sub judice in the Supreme Court regarding his arrest on a Red Notice issued on the request of Interpol’s Islamabad NCB. During the investigation of subject cases at the FIA Lahore it transpired that while he should have been investigated for the serious transnational financial crimes and money-laundering, he was rather unlawfully facilitated by FIA in 2018-19 when you (Bashir Memon) were director general (FIA) in freely travelling to and from Pakistan despite being on Interpol red warrant’s watch-list. Not only that, you also facilitated him as head of the NCB Interpol Islamabad by making the international Red Notice issued against him controversial. It is a matter of record that aforementioned patronage of a notorious/wanted international fugitive was an advertent abuse of authority for extraneous reasons,” the FIA stated in the notice sent to Mr Memon.

Memon, however, contended the notice was totally illegal and irrelevant in view of the allegations to facilitate the suspect, a Pakistani national, and also to make his intentional red warrant “controversial”. He submitted to the SHC that such accusations were completely imaginary as the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files was an international, independent body and exercised its own functions deliberated to it by internationally recognised treaties.

The FIA has also sought a reply from Mr Memon regarding “any efforts” to investigate whether any portion of the crime proceeds of $12 million in Switzerland had been laundered to Pakistan directly or indirectly. “Did you make any efforts to investigate whether any portion of the crime proceeds of 89 million kroners (Nordea Bank Fraud Oslo 2010) had been laundered to Pakistan either directly or indirectly? How did an internationally wanted fugitive, against whom a Red Notice was issued in 2015, managed to travel to/from Pakistan with impunity 32 times (between 2017 and 2019) when you were holding office as DG FIA. Why did you use your official position to intercede with Interpol Lyon on behalf of a wanted fugitive (Zahoor)? What was your relationship with Zahoor and how many private meetings you had conducted with him in Pakistan or abroad?”

The FIA also said the suspect had been photographed with Memon.

Ishaq Tanoli in Karachi also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2022

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