SC orders formation of JIT to probe fake accounts case

The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday ordered the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe alleged laundering of billions of rupees through fake bank accounts in connivance with bankers and others to suspected beneficiaries, including former president Asif Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur.

The three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, however, has not decided who will be a part of the JIT.

An FIA JIT has been investigating a 2015 case regarding fake accounts and fictitious transactions conducted through 29 ‘benami’ accounts in Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and UBL. Seven individuals, including Zardari and Talpur, were said to be involved in using those accounts for suspicious transactions which totalled Rs35 billion. The accounts were allegedly used to channel funds received through kickbacks.

While hearing a suo motu case regarding a delay in the Federal Investigation Agency's (FIA) probe into the case, the SC had earlier deliberated over the formation of an investigation team, but said that it would only be constituted once the defence and prosecution lawyers concluded their arguments.

The SC is also in favour of halting the case proceedings in the trial court.

"This is a mega corruption case, it is necessary to have a mega corruption case probed by a JIT," Justice Nisar said, adding that the court had constituted JITs to probe a number of cases.

Shahid Hamid, the counsel for the Omni Group, its chairman Anwar Majeed and Ghani Majeed rejected the creation of a JIT to probe the case and expressed concerns over the media coverage of his clients.

"We will control the media, but tell me why we shouldn't create a JIT," the CJP responded. "This is not some small case. Did angels put the money in the bank accounts?" he asked. "We will find out who the money belongs to."

"For now, we are not accusing anyone," the top judge said. "Why is the Omni Group shying away from the JIT?" he asked.

FIA Director General Bashir Memon told the bench today that during a search of Majeed's office, a company in Dubai had been discovered.

Memon said that the company's accounts contained millions of dirhams. "Through foreign currency accounts money is being sent to England and France," he said, adding that the amount was being transferred through fake bank accounts.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan asked Memon if the FIA had any experts skilled in foreign currency to which the CJP added that an up to date modern team was needed.

Attorney General of Pakistan Anwar Mansoor pointed out that certain problems arise when investigating banks and other such institutions outside Pakistan. "The problem is that we can't get the help of skilled private personnel," he explained, adding that the National Database and Registration Authority had the help of skilled IT personnel.

The CJP said that the creation of a JIT was necessary. "We can have a JIT investigate all over again," he said. "We want to bring the truth to light. A fraud worth billions has taken place."

"No one will leave the country until we conclude the investigation," the CJP asserted, adding: "We must be convinced if someone is unwell."

The top judge observed that whenever a big fish was caught by the DG FIA, he became sick. "Even young people seem to get sick when they are caught," he said.

Munir Bhatti, the counsel for Nimr Majeed, Mustafa Majeed and Ali Kamal Majeed said that the family members do not hold any public designations.

More details to follow.



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