The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has registered a money laundering case against PML-Q leader and former federal minister Moonis Elahi and others, it emerged on Wednesday.

Subsequently, Moonis' lawyer, Amir Saeed Rawn told Dawn.com that the FIA's move would be challenged in the Lahore High Court as a case could "not be registered without a prior inquiry".

He also claimed that the case was based on "mala fide".

According to the FIA's first information report, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the case against Elahi was registered on Tuesday under Sections 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of a common intention), 109 (punishment for abetment), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating) and 471 (using a genuine forged document) of the Pakistan Penal Code, read with Section 5(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 and Section 4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010.

State, through the FIA Corporate Crime Circle in Lahore, has been named as the complainant in the FIR.

According to the FIR, the FIA's Anti-Corruption Circle in Lahore had registered an inquiry on August 7, 2020 pursuant to a report of the Sugar Inquiry Commission 2020.

The FIR said that in light of the report, the FIA was mandated by the federal government to probe financial and corporate frauds committed by various sugar mills, including Rahim Yar Khan (RYK)/Alliance Sugar Mills.

"During the ongoing probe against RYK/ Alliance Sugar Mills Group, it transpired that the following low-profile individuals — one of them had been at a very low level at the time — had jointly set up RYK Sugar Mills Ltd. in 2007/2008 at Rahim Yar Khan," the FIR stated.

It identified the individuals as Nawaz Bhatti and Mazhar Abbas.

The FIR added that the mill was "set up ostensibly by laundering funds from unexplained sources, including proceeds of financial crimes".

According to the FIR, the mill's capital increased by Rs720 million in 2008 but the source for these funds, as well as those required for the acquisition of land, import of plants and machinery and administrative expenses, remained "unexplained".

Between 2011 and 2014, the FIR continued, Nawaz and Abbas, who held the majority of the mill's shares at the time, disposed of their shares, but this transaction also remained unexplained.

"Record of banks examined so far has revealed that M. Nawaz Bhatti [Naid Qasid] and Mazhar Abbas had been signatory in multiple bank accounts with a turnover of Rs24 billion."

The FIR further stated that their shares, after passing through intermediaries, were acquired by two special purpose vehicles (SPVs), including Bhatti's nephew, Wajih Ahmed Khan Bhatti — who is an employee of the Punjab Assembly at present — and Cascade Tek Pvt Ltd.

An SPV is a subsidiary company that is formed to undertake a specific business purpose or activity.

"Both these SPVs are controlled by accused Ch Moonis Elahi (one directly and other one is controlled indirectly through his family member). This makes it evidently clear that accused M Nawaz Bhatti and Mazhar Abbass lent their identities and acted on behalf of Ch Moonis Elahi to disguise the origin and nature of ill-gotten funds/proceeds used to set up RYK Mills Ltd," the FIR said.

It added that records had further revealed that "Makhdum Omar Shehryar (Executive Director of the then proposed RYK Mills Ltd) applied for issuance of NOC (non-objection certificate) for setting up the sugar mill through an application to the Secretary Industries, Punjab on June 25, 2007 which was accordingly approved by the Ministry of Industries Punjab and CM Punjab Office in quick succession".

Incumbent Punjab Assembly Speaker and Moonis' father Pervaiz Elahi was the Punjab chief minister at the time and his "culpability will be determined during the investigation", the FIR said.

Moreover, it added that Shahryar and his brother-in-law Tarik Jawaid collectively held 30.59 per cent shares in the mill as of 2020, and "the origin and nature of their investment of ill-gotten funds/proceeds is also unexplained".

The inquiry substantiated that Moonis, Bhatti, Abbas, Shehryar, Jawaid, Wajih and Muhammad Khan Bhatti have been involved in money laundering, the FIR concluded.

Moons dubs case 'pressure tactic'

After the case was registered, Moonis said in a tweet: "Do whatever you want. I appeared before [the FIA] and will appear again. Wait for me, I am coming."

While he did not name the FIA in the tweet that was in Urdu, he used the FIA hashtag, along with another one translating to "imported government is unacceptable".

Speaking later to the media in Lahore, Moonis said he had received no notice about the case and did not know the other two individuals named in the case. He added that the case was nothing more than an attempt to exert pressure on him.

On Sunday, multiple TV channels reported that the FIA had obtained “sufficient evidence” to launch a money laundering case against Moonis, but the news could not be independently verified at the time.

For his part, Moonis had described the reports as a “pressure tactic”.

He had said in a tweet at that time that “the PML-N’s pressure tactics will not be able to withdraw PML-Q’s support to former prime minister Imran Khan".

"The PML-N is at a loss to understand that it can pressure me to change my loyalty towards former premier and PTI chairman Imran Khan," he had said.

Separately, he had said while speaking to Dawn that the PML-N was in the “habit of instituting false and baseless cases” against his family.

Any such case would be seen as politically motivated and aimed at victimising him, he added. “All my business transactions are documented and lawful.”

Moonis claimed a message had been conveyed to him that he could make amends for his mistake by coming back. “Upon my refusal to withdraw support to Imran Khan, they have started putting pressure on me,” he added.

Ahead of the no-confidence vote against then-premier Imran Khan, PML-Q's Moonis Elahi and his father Parvez remained aligned with the PTI, while Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, his son Chaudhry Salik Hussain and Tariq Bashir Cheema chose to join the new government of Shehbaz Sharif.

Moonis, since then, has been very vocal against the new dispensation, often taking to Twitter to pillory the "imported government".

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