ISLAMABAD: The country’s top court on Sunday directed authorities to place presidents of United Bank Limited (UBL), Sindh Bank, and Summit Bank on the Exit Control List (ECL) and form a JIT to probe money-laundering allegations, reported.
During a hearing of the suo moto case pertaining to the alleged use of fake bank accounts to launder money, a three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, was informed by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director-General Bashir Memon that the investigation in the matter was initiated on an intelligence tip in 2010.
“Out of the 29 accounts identified by FIA, 16 existed at Summit Bank, eight at Sindh Bank and five at UBL, while transactions worth Rs35 billion were recorded among seven people.”
Upon Justice Nisar’s inquiry, Memon revealed ownership of various accounts. Elaborating bank transfers, he said that Rs70 million were transferred to Ansari Sugar Mill, Rs5 million to Omni, Rs15 million to Pak Ethanol, Rs200 million to Chamber Sugar Mill, Rs5.7 million to Agro Firm and Rs15 million to Zardari Group Pvt Ltd through alleged fake bank accounts.
When the top judge asked why the suspect behind money-laundering of over Rs35 billion had not been summoned, Memon replied that FIA had sent notices to all suspects. He informed court that the agency recently arrested Hussain Lawai – vice-chairman of Summit Bank and a close aid of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari.
Noting the gravity of white collar crimes, the chief justice ordered the formation of joint investigation team (JIT) comprising financial experts along the lines of the infamous Panama Papers. After issuing notice to the presidents/chief executive officers of Sindh Bank, Summit Bank and UBL, the apex court directed the government to place their names on ECL. Notices have been issued to other senior officials of the banks as well.
The apex court also sought details from the State Bank of Pakistan regarding a transfer of Rs7 billion from Summit Bank. The hearing has been adjourned until July 12.
Agencies add: Memon informed the court that the case involved 29 fake accounts on seven people’s names. Over Rs35 billion was funneled through these accounts at the three banks. Summit Bank Vice-Chairperson Hussain Lawai, who is also a close aide of PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, was arrested by the FIA in this case on July 6. Taha Raza, another accused in the case, has also been arrested.
Tell us whose names the accounts were on, the CJ told Memon, adding that he wanted to know who is behind the whole scam. The FIA DG said all the beneficiaries of the accounts have been issued notices.
Justice Nisar criticised Memon for acting slowing and said the court will issue notices to the accused itself. This is an important issue, he said, asking why the FIA was being so hesitant. Memon said an issue in their investigation was that banks do not readily provide data against their heads.
He informed the court that Nasir Abdullah, who is the chairperson of Summit Bank, has an account through which Rs2.94 billion was funelled and has also been implicated in the case. The CJ asked how the money was sent to the Zardari group and through whose accounts it was sent. Memon replied that the money was indeed sent from one of the suspected fake accounts.
The FIA head informed the court that the accounts were mainly on the names of poor labourers.
Justice Aijazul Hassan remarked that the people in whose names the accounts were made likely had no idea of their existence. Memon said that Rs35 billion had already been funneled through Summit Bank. He said that so far, they have received the records of only one account, adding that the banks are not cooperating with the FIA.