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Accountability Court to indict Zardari, Talpur on Oct 4

Accountability Court to indict Zardari, Talpur on Oct 4

ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Thursday fixed October 4 to indict former president Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur in the money laundering and fake accounts case.

The National Accountability Court (NAB) presented Zardari before Judge Muhammad Bashir’s court, however, Talpur could not be presented in the hearing due to a session in the Sindh Assembly.

Condemning the arrest of Pakistan Peoples Party’s senior leader Khursheed Shah on Wednesday, Zardari said the government can arrest whoever they want. “We don’t even need the production orders,” he said.

Pakistan Peoples Party senior leadership, Omni Group’s Anwar Majeed and his son Abdul Ghani Majeed, former Pakistan Stock Exchange chairperson Hussain Lawai, Summit Bank Senior Vice-President Taha Raza are among those being investigated in cases related to the fake accounts scandal.

The case was transferred to Islamabad after a Karachi banking court accepted the NAB transfer request filed following the SC judgment forwarding the joint investigation team (JIT) report to the bureau with directions to investigate and file references.

Zardari remained in NAB remand till August 16 when the accountability court sent him to judicial remand after NAB prosecutor Muzaffar Abbasi apprised the court of new developments in the case.

Consequently, he was moved to Adiala Jail. Talpur, on the other hand, was shifted from Islamabad’s Polyclinic Hospital to Adiala jail at midnight on August 12.

On August 19, the defence counsel lamented to the court that their clients were ill-treated in jail. Latif Khosa said the former president was suffering from a number of health issues that could pose a threat to his life.

Information regarding the fake accounts came to the fore when an intelligence agency picked up a prominent money changer in an unrelated case. In December 2015, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) began a discreet investigation into certain bank accounts through which multi-billion rupee transactions have been made.

Investigators have so far identified 29 accounts which received payments, totalling at least Rs35 billion. The probe was initially shelved but resumed almost a year and a half later with FIA’s State Bank circle initiating a formal inquiry in January 2018. By June, the FIA had several high-profile names on its list but was unable to make headway–for several reasons.

It was at his point that the Supreme Court intervened and then chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice of the ‘slow progress’ in the money-laundering case. In July, Zardari’s close aides Hussain Lawai, Taha Raza and two others were arrested. Subsequently, the first case was registered in the mega-corruption scandal.

The then chief justice ordered the formation of a joint investigation team to quicken the pace of the investigation. The JIT identified 11,500 bank accounts and 924 account holders at the start of their investigation. After the JIT report, the names of 172 individuals were placed on the no-fly list by the interior ministry.