Maybe ISI, MI men were put in Panama case JIT to spice up probe: CJP

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ISLAMABAD: The Sup­reme Court hinted at appointing a Panama-like high-powered joint investigation team (JIT) in the Rs35 billion fake accounts case but without representations from intelligence agencies namely the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI).
“Maybe the members of the ISI and MI were included in the Panama Papers leaks case to spice up (Tarka) the probe,” observed Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, dismissing the possibility of inclusion of the intelligence agencies officials in the white-collar crime.
The observation came when a three-judge SC bench asked Federal Inves­tigation Agency Director General Bashir Memon about the composition of the JIT in the Panama Papers case. When he recalled that the probe team was headed by FIA Additional Director Wajid Zia and included representatives from the State Bank of Pakistan, National Accountability Bureau, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, MI and ISI, the chief justice asked him to leave them (the last two) and said that if the court appointed a similar JIT, the intelligence officers would not be part of it.
Mr Memon had on Aug 6 suggested the formation of the JIT when the court had taken up the suo motu case regarding fake accounts revolving around a 2015 inquiry into the suspicious transactions when 29 ‘benami’ accounts were identified — 16 opened in the Summit Bank, eight in the Sindh Bank and five in the UBL. Seven individuals were found involved in transacting Rs35bn suspiciously. Pakistan Stock Exchange chairman Hussain Lawai, a close aide to former president Asif Zardari, and co-accused Taha Raza, unit corporate head of the Summit Bank, are already under FIA custody.
The FIA director general told the court that during investigations 15 more suspected fake accounts had surfaced that registered a staggering transaction of Rs6bn. When he claimed that the money transferred to these fake accounts were the proceeds of bribe collected from different contractors and different government servants, Justice Umar Ata Bandial observed that since the inquiry was in progress, Mr Memon should avoid labelling the accused as corrupt unless complete evidence against them.
Senior counsel Shahid Hamid and Ayesha Hamid, representing Omni Group of Companies chairman Khawaja Anvar Majeed, also reacted by describing the FIA chief’s statement as media trial, saying his statement would be flashed as headlines in the media. “The FIA chief should come up with evidence of corruption instead of hurling allegations,” they said.
The court, however, observed that it was up to the accused to explain these transactions.
The counsel requested the court to refer the matter back to the special court where the case against their client was pending.
But the chief justice observed that the apex court enjoyed unfettered authority to issue any directive while exercising jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution for dispensing complete justice and could even go to the extent of quashing the FIR before the trial court.
Justice Bandial, however, observed that the court exercised power while remaining within the confines of the law.
The court also took notice of the absence of Anvar Majeed but, at the request of the counsel, allowed the accused to appear before it on Wednesday.
In his report, the FIA director general said the transactions made in the benami accounts did not match with the profiles of the account holders and seemed to have acted as instrument for parking illegal money. After scrutinising the amounts deposited and withdrawn, the report added, the FIA was successful in tracking different individuals, mainly government contractors like Pak Oasis (Pvt) Ltd, Waseem Builders, etc.
It said the scrutiny of these accounts further revealed 15 suspected fake accounts from where a huge amount of Rs6bn had been withdrawn by accused Arif Khan, rider Naeem and Hassan Brohi.
Likewise, another account in the name of Zain Malik and Mushtaq Hazaro was opened in Summit Bank’s Dolmen City branch in which Rs8.3bn transactions were detected between Feb 2014 and Jan 2015 – Rs4.7bn was transferred to a fake suspected account and Rs3.7bn was withdrawn in cash under fake signatures of Tariq Sultan, M. Ashraf, Naeem and other individuals.
The report also named Haji Haroon of the H&H Exchange Company who had WhatsApp contact with Hussain Lawai. Mr Lawai had provided the mobile numbers of different individuals like Ali Riaz Malik, his wife’s accounts in Dubai and messages for resolving issues of accused Nasir Abdullah Lootah, the report alleged.
It said numerous cheques had been issued from the new suspected fake accounts of Dream Trading and Ocean Enterprises with code marks AM and H&H on the back of cheques which had been credited in five suspicious accounts of Hawala in Peshawar.
The report alleged that accused Abdul Ghani Majeed was actively in contact with Mr Lawai and Bilal Sheikh.
During the proceedings, the court ordered the Sindh inspector general to initiate departmental inquiries against police officers found guilty of harassing witnesses.