Money laundering case: Zardari, Talpur's interim bail extended till Jan 7

KARACHI: A banking court extended the interim pre-arrest bail of former president Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur till January 7 in an ongoing money laundering case.

The former president and his sister appeared before the court as the interim bail granted to them ended today. 

A large number of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) workers and senior party leaders, including Khursheed Shah and Rehman Malik, had gathered outside the court premises as reports earlier circulated that Zardari may have been arrested today.

Earlier during a high-level party meeting, the PPP decided to stage a protest in case Zardari was arrested. 

A day earlier, the JIT that has been investigating the fake accounts recommended a legal course against some 415 key individuals and around 172 entities allegedly involved in transactions of approximately Rs220 billion through 104 fake accounts.

The JIT observed that either the investigation would be further referred to banking courts, NAB, FIA or it was up to the apex court to decide based on the JIT findings. In a series of events in the fake accounts investigation, the JIT report also revealed a domestic worker of Zardari, with an estimated fortune of around Rs8.1 billion stashed into one of his fake accounts. Mushtaq Ahmed, 37, who once served as one of personal staff members of Zardari accumulated the wealth with Zain Malik through a joint fake account maintained in a private bank in Karachi during 2014-15, the report stated.

Moreover, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) filed a referencewith the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against Zardari for hiding property in the United States.

The petition submitted by PTI’s Khurram Sher Zaman and Firdous Shamim Naqvi moved the ECP to take notice of the matter and disqualify Zardari as member of the National Assembly.

While receiving the petition, the provincial election commissioner maintained that only ECP Islamabad could take an action over it.

Earlier, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that the PTI had directed Zaman to file a reference against Zardari for not mentioning his foreign assets in the nomination papers. “Zardari owns an apartment in the United States. Under Article 62/63, he was bound to declare his assets which he didn’t. He is not eligible to remain a member of the parliament anymore,” Chaudhry had said.

The case

The FIA is investigating 32 people in relation to money laundering from fictitious accounts, including Zardari and Talpur. Zardari’s close aide Hussain Lawai was arrested in July in connection with the probe.

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

Over 20 ‘benami’ accounts at some private banks were opened in 2013, 2014 and 2015 from where transactions worth billions of rupees were made, according to media.

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