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JIT recommends 16 references against Zardari, others in money laundering case

JIT recommends 16 references against Zardari, others in money laundering case

KARACHI: The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed on the Supreme Court orders to thoroughly probe the money-laundering case while declaring Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari as the alleged main beneficiary and organiser of the fraud recommended to the apex court 16 references under the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 against all the involved persons.

On Monday, the JIT presented its 128-page final report before the apex court. The JIT report consists of 128 pages of original report along with eight pages of executive summary, five sections including recommendations for filing 16 NAB references, described in detail the alleged failure of regulatory mechanism of state institutions to detect, check and restrain the offences relating to corruption, especially money laundering.

According to the contents of the JIT report, earlier 29 fake accounts were identified by FIA. The JIT further explored 11,500 bank accounts of 924 account holders associated with the above mentioned 29 accounts, 59 Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) and 24,500 Cash Transactions Reports (CTRs) were scrutinized along with the loan profile of 924 individuals and entities.

The JIT report further revealed that JIT summoned 885 persons out of them 767 appeared and 118 did not appear; four persons – Khawaja Anwar Majeed, Khawaja Abdul Ghani Majeed, Hussain Lawai and Taha Raza – arrested by FIA in FIR No04/2018 and five accused- Aslam Masood, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Omni Group, Naseer Abdullah Lootah, Chairman Summit Bank (UAE national), Muhammad Umair, employee of Omni Group, Azam Wazir Khan of M/s Paradise Travels and Younis Kudwai whom warrant for arrest have been issued by Special Court (Banking Offence) Karachi – are absconding abroad as per FIA immigration report and on the request of JIT made through NCB-Interpol Islamabad, Interpol headquarter Lyon, France, is proceeding the request for the above absconding accused persons.

Moreover the JIT restrained the travel out of country by placing 147 persons required for investigation on Provisional National Identification List (PNIL).

According to the JIT report, the fake accounts were opened through Omni Group employees however, these accounts remained engaged in direct transactions with Zardari Group and family, Bahria Town, Sindh government departments and contractors of the Sindh government and the ultimate beneficiary of this money laundering cartel was primarily the family patronised by the Omni Group, Zardari family.

The JIT report said that the analysis of payments into fake accounts and investigation relate to these transactions revealed nine types of crimes linked to fake accounts such as kickbacks against grabbing of state land by Bahria Town Karachi, Bagh-e-Qasim Clifton land for Bahria Icon twin towers project and Pakistan Steel Mills land, bribes by land mafia and proceeds against land grabbing of private land adjoining the state land illegally allotted to Bahria Town, Karachi, various prime urban plots and Pink Residency Land, kickbacks from government contractors and builders, diverted and misappropriated loans, misappropriated subsidies for cane growers, tractors scheme, cooperative power plants and sick units, unexpected huge cash deposits masking the source of money, unexpected deposits with missing and misappropriated vouchers.

The JIT report further revealed that Bahria Town grabbed some 11,297 acres state land, 25,000 private land for Bahria Town Karachi and 7,900 square yards of state land of Bagh-e-Qasim Clifton, Karachi, by using resources of Sindh government, Board of Revenue, Malir Development Authority including Sindh Police and deposited Rs10.02 billion directly into the fake accounts and Rs1.22 billion through JV Opal 225 scheme and 50 percent share in Bahria Icon project.

The JIT report added that during scrutiny of the fake accounts of M/s Umair Associates Rs31.95 million was found deposited on July 17, 2014 through 40 bearer cheques issued by one Amanullah Memon, it was found that 562 acres state land including 362 acres of Pakistan Steel Mills was illegally allotted to private builders causing loss of Rs4.14 billion to the national exchequer.

The investigation found out that cheques amounting to Rs46.4 million were issued from the fake accounts to A-One International, Ibrahim Linkers and Umair Associates for regularisation fee for illegal allotment of state land to M/s Pink Residency, allegedly a front company of Asif Ali Zardari.

The JIT report further said that some 19 government contractors deposited Rs1.32 billion through 323 transactions into fake accounts as Sardar Ashraf D Baloch Company ran through Shahzad Jatoi deposited Rs219 million through 10 transactions, Madni Engineering won 38 contracts amounting to Rs1,500 million during 2013/14 deposited Rs167.5 million through 67 transactions, Sher Muhammad Mughri won 36 contracts deposited Rs145 million through 53 transactions, company Thadani Enterprises run by Ratna Gul Thadani won 11 contacts deposited Rs110 million through 20 transactions, Oasis Drilling Corporation front company of Pak-Osais Private Limited, the largest RO water filtration plants installer in Sindh owned by Omer Abbas Jilani deposited Rs98.326 million through two bank transactions, Ibrahim Khan and Ismail Khan deposited Rs85 million through eight transactions and others.

According to the JIT report, some Rs223 million landed in fake accounts of M/s Logistic Trading and M/s Royal International on behalf of private builder Muhsin Shekhani. In fact, this payment was made to Manzoor Qadir Kaka, former DG Sindh Building Control Authority.

Investigation of the JIT found that a certain amount of loans Rs797 million tailored for Omni Group was placed into fake accounts ‘Iqbal Metals, Dream Trading, Gateway Iron Steel, Tariq Associates and Lucky International’ which was ultimately embezzled and laundered.

It was found in the investigation of JIT that Rs22.72 billion from fake accounts was subsequently layered through the Omni Group companies and some Rs4,101 million Income Tax was also evaded.

The JIT report described in detail about the abnormal and exponential growth of Omni Group as termed it important beneficiary of the operations of fake accounts as total debit and credit of the Omni Group with fake accounts stands at Rs7.1 billion and Rs8.4 billion respectively.

According to the JIT report, attitude of Anwar Majeed family, owners of Omni Group, was totally non-cooperative and even threatening as during the investigation, Nazli Majeed extended couched threats to members of JIT by saying “Alright, I have seen your faces”; however, despite the total non-cooperation, the JIT succeeded in unearthing the financial crime.

From 2009 onwards, exceptional and abnormal business growth of Omni Group was witnessed and within five years, loans of Omni Group increased to Rs38 billion – some 2,500 percent growth from 2008 to 2013; during the next five years 2013 to 2018 the Omni Group’s growth declined a bit with a total outstanding loan portfolio to Rs53 billion and Omni Group reached a total 83 companies operating under its umbrella including 23 shell companies, 32 front companies in the name of its employees and 11 fake entities.

The JIT found that while approving a very low bid for Thatta Sugar Mills against the advice of then Secretary Finance, the then Minister Finance Syed Murad Ali Shah strongly recommended the summary in favour of Omni Group on the ground that it will be beneficial for local job creation and also benefit the economy but instead of job creation and giving any benefit to the economy, Thatta Sugar Mills obtained loan of Rs895 million from the government of Sindh in the name of ‘revival of sick industrial units policy’. Out of this loan, Rs600 million was transferred to Naseer Abdullah Lootah through a fake account; The JIT recommended the matter to be referred to NAB for thorough inquiry and filing of reference in Accountability Court; apart from this issue the JIT also found the role of Sindh CM Syed Murad Shah as facilitator of Omni Group in paying some Rs7.19 billion in the heads of ‘annual subsidised tractor scheme’, subsidy to growers, subsidy to New Captive Power Plant of Omni Group and subsidised loans for revival of sick units and recommended thorough inquiry by NAB against Sindh CM Syed Murad Shah who also has been holding the charge of finance ministry for the last eight years.

During the investigation of fake accounts, it is transpired that out of most of fake entities, 11 had ‘international business and shopping centers’ (IBSC) (property of Asif Zardari) as their business addresses in their account opening forms. Moreover, fake accounts were found to be interacting with the Zardari Group and M/s Park Lane (beneficial owners – Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Zardari).

The JIT report also discussed the role of the National Bank and Summit Bank as consortium of NBP and Summit Bank approved Rs2.4 billion loan by valuing the mortgaged property revising from Rs50.2 million to Rs1.5 billion, the consortium while disbursing the loan for construction of 8-story building in 2009 disregarded the mandatory building plans of Cantonment Board.

The JIT was of the opinion that Asif Ali Zardari not only orchestrated this fraudulent misappropriation but it is also the ultimate beneficiary as Asif Zardari and his son Bilwal Zardari have 50 percent direct share of M/s Park Lane and control the remaining through dummy directors and front men – Younis Kudwai and Iqbal Memon; the connivance of NBP and the consortium in sanctioning the huge Rs2.4 billion loan to a front company M/s Parathenon within one month with no business of its own speaks volume about the proprietary control through system by Asif Zardari; the consortium of NBP and Summit Bank has registered the default of Rs3.74 billion against M/s Panathenon which is merely a front company; Younis Kudwai accused absconder in money-laundering case FIR No4/2018 is close confidante of Asif Zardari and also a co-director along with Aslam Masood of Omni Group in another front company M/s Rubicon Builders, a mere paper company created only to get and misappropriate loan of Rs1 billion of Sindh Bank; business addresses of M/s Panathenon is room number 30, 4th floor of IBSC, a property owned by Asif Zardari through Park Lane and addresses of seven other fake business entities out of total 11 in account opening forms is also IBSC owned by Asif Zardari.

The JIT further disclosed that the plea that Asif Zardari had resigned from the directorship of Park Lane is not tenable as Asif Zardari nominally resigned as director on September 1, 2009 as it was logical obligation before entering the President’s office. He had already purchased the IBSC on August 28, 2008 as director of Park Lane.

The investigation has found strong connection of Asif Zardari with the misappropriation of funds. He resigned from the board of directors of M/s Park Lane on August 22, 2008 as director and then Rs1.5 billion was transferred by M/s Panathenon into two accounts and withdrawn in cash within two days by Younis Kudwai, front man of Asif Zardari; the JIT concludes this issue as “above evidence clearly shows that Asif Zardari as President of Pakistan has been involved in the misuse of authority and misappropriation of huge public money amounting to Rs1.5 billion and NAB may be directed to conduct a thorough inquiry by filing a reference against Asif Zardari, his front man Younis Kudwai and co-accused bank officials in Accountability Court and recover misappropriated funds of Rs1.5 billion along with total outstanding of Rs3.74 billion loss to public exchequer.

During the course of investigation, money from fake accounts were used for the personal expenditure of Asif Zardari, Faryal Talpur and PPP leadership and Anwer Majeed family as payments of Rs3.58 million were made in 2011 out of various fake accounts for purchase of cement for construction of Faryal Talpur house in DHA Phase-5, a payment of Rs0.89 million was made from a fake account in 2011 to Thatta Cement Factory on account of provision of cement to Zardari House, Nawabshah, a payment of Rs265.4 million was withdrawn on behalf of ‘Baray Sahib’ (Asif Zardari); Rs54.45 million was paid to Akhlaq Ahmed, in-charge of Zardari House Islamabad, Rs8.96 million paid to Nadeem Bhutto in charge of Naudero House of Asif Zardari; the JIT while pointing out illegalities in purchase of two bullet proof vehicles by Asif Zardari as President recommended for referring of matter to the NAB.

The JIT also pointed out the expenditure of Bilawal House Karachi was made through fake accounts as Rs1.53 million to Water and Sewerage Board Karachi and Rs4.14 to Deli Restaurant for catering and event services at Bilawal House, Karachi.

The JIT report further narrated that Rs12.82 million was paid from fake accounts for the purchase of air tickets of Asif Zardari and family, additionally Asif Zardari, Bilwal Zardari, Aseefa Zardari, Mirza Arsahad Baig and Haji Haroon also utilised fake accounts for purchase of their air tickets.

According to the JIT report, Omni Airways purchased an aircraft from a company of Denmark for $2.55 million against a loan of Summit Bank pledging plot G-2, Block 2, Scheme 5, Clifton Karachi owned by Regent Services an Omni Group company. The same property was already purchased by Summit Bank in 2012 at Rs20 million for its headquarters and the Sindh Bank paid another Rs324 million for purchase of aircraft; subsequently the mortgaged property was released and the aircraft was itself mortgaged. In a nutshell, the Omni Group purchased aircraft without paying a single penny.

Payment of Rs14.6 million from fake accounts was made for bullet proofing of truck for PPP leadership especially for Bilawal Zardari. Payment of Rs2.3 million was made to Advocate Asim Mansoor Khan, brother of Attorney General for Pakistan, from fake accounts