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Saturday Jan 05 2019

Money laundering case: JIT recommends freezing Zardari, Omni groups' assets


ISLAMABAD: The joint investigation team (JIT), probing money laundering of several billion rupees from fictitious bank accounts in Pakistan, on Saturday recommended "freezing" all assets of Asif Ali Zardari, Faryal Talpur, and Zardari and Omni groups.

The case, against Zardari and several other individuals, pertains to laundering of around Rs220 billion through fictitious bank accounts.

The JIT submitted its recommendations with the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It recommended freezing Bilawal House, Karachi and Lahore, and Zardari House, Islamabad.

The investigation also urged for freezing of New York and Dubai properties owned by Zardari, alongside all five plots of Bilawal House in Karachi.

It recommended freezing all urban and agricultural lands owned by Zardari, Talpur, and the Zardari Group.

The investigation team also moved the apex court to order freezing of all assets of Omni Group, including sugar mills, agricultural companies and energy companies.

In its report, the JIT accused Zardari and Omni groups of irregularities in loans and government funds. The report said that both the groups transferred money out of country through 'Hundi' and 'Hawala'.

It said the assets should remain frozen until a verdict in the multi-billion rupees money laundering case, expressing concerns that these assets might be transferred out of country.

The investigation team also requested the court to order Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) not to change names of Zardari and Omni groups' directors.

It further noted that Zardari established a 'benami' company through his front man Iqbal Memon, which was frozen in 1998.

However, the company was returned to Zardari in 2008 through Dr Dinshaw, the JIT stated in its report.

Zardari, Talpur reject JIT report 

Asif Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur, both of whom are accused in the money laundering case, rejected the JIT report submitted in the Supreme Court. 

In their reply submitted to the apex court, Zardari and Talpur contended that the report was based on speculation and targetted political victimisation.

The case

The FIA is investigating several people in relation to money laundering from fictitious bank accounts, including Zardari and Talpur. Zardari’s close aide Hussain Lawai was arrested in July 2018 in connection with the probe.

The former president’s other close aide and Omni Group chairman Anwar Majeed and his son Abdul Ghani Majeed were arrested by the FIA in August 2018.

Hundreds of ‘benami’ accounts at some private banks were opened in 2013, 2014 and 2015 from where transactions worth billions of rupees were made, according to the investigation.

The amount is said to be black money gathered from various kickbacks, commissions and bribes.