SC orders formation of JIT to probe money laundering case

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court ordered the formation of a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe into an ongoing Rs35 billion money laundering case.

“We are forming a JIT and it will submit a report on the matter every 15 days,” Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar said as he headed a three-judge bench hearing a case pertaining to money laundering of Rs35 billion from fictitious bank accounts.

During the hearing, former president Asif Zardari’s counsel, Aitzaz Ahsan, Omni Group chairman Anwar Majeed’s counsel, Shahid Hamid, and Director General Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Bashir Memon appeared before the court.

Zardari and Majeed’s counsels presented their arguments against the formation of a JIT to probe into the case.

However, ordering that a JIT be formed, the court said that names of members will be announced later.

The court also directed that Rangers provide security to FIA members.

Further, Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked, “We are forming a JIT in light of FIA’s statement that they do not have the expertise.”

“If the suspects are not guilty then they will get a clean chit,” he added.

DG FIA records statement

As the hearing went under way, DG FIA Bashir Memon while recording his statement said they conducted a raid at Omni Group’s Karachi office.
“We found documents related to Kam Crown International Trading House Company in Dubai during the raid,” the DG FIA said.
Based on those documents we conducted a raid at the Dubai office and found numerous records of foreign currency accounts, Memon added.
The DIG FIA further told the court that the records of accounts found from the Dubai office belong to family of Omni Group chairman Anwar Majeed and the transfers in the accounts were made by the same people as those indicated in the account details found earlier.
“From Dubai, money was sent to England and France,” he continued.
Memon continued, We also seized several hard drives which contain a lot of data.
To this, Justice Ijazul Ahsan questioned if FIA has people who can check the data and the DG FIA responded, “Our cyber crime wing is working on it but there is a lot of data.”
The chief justice then remarked, “We should form a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe this matter.”
As Justice Ahsan questioned if anyone had reservations to the formation of a JIT, Justice Nisar said, “Who will have any reservations?”
“The suspects will get a clean chit. This matter has nothing to do with the suspects,” the chief justice added.
Following this, Majeed’s counsel said, “I have filed a miscellaneous petition regarding the JIT, kindly look into it.”
However, Justice Nisar remarked, We have records of the conversation between Anwar Majeed and the chief minister.
It was said that Majeed can reside at the chief minister’s residence, the chief justice added.
“We will transfer the case to Punjab,” Justice Nisar further said.
The chief justice then said, “Instead of the earlier investigation, we should form a JIT to probe into the matter. It is a matter of Rs35 billion, we want a transparent investigation.”
Stating that it is the nation’s right that their looted money is brought back, the chief justice reiterated, “We should form a JIT for further investigation.”

How can court direct how the matter should be probed: Majeed’s counsel

However, Majeed family’s counsel said, “Mention of political personalities is making it seem like corruption was done.”

“How can the court direct an investigation agency on how to probe a matter?” Hamid further asked.

In response, Justice Nisar remarked, “The Constitution allows the court to call for any kind of investigation.”

There is no law that bars investigation into fraud, he added.

Justice Nisar further said that domestic staff, including gardeners and drivers, recorded their statements and said they have no knowledge regarding who transferred billions into their accounts.

“We want to know who these angels were who deposited billions in these accounts,” the chief justice continued.

The Majeed family counsel then said, “We have no reservations of investigation agencies exercise their authority in keeping with the law.”

Responding to the Majeed family counsel, Justice Nisar said, “A probe is required because if nothing wrong was done then it will be clear.”

The chief justice added, “If you deposit Rs35 billion, all accounts will be defreezed.”

However, Hamid stated, “FIA’s numbers are wrong.”

“Omni Group deposited Rs3 billion and withdrew the same amount — how is this laundering?” the Majeed family counsel upheld.

“Problems arise when the Supreme Court forms a JIT to probe into any case,” he further said.

Aitzaz Ahsan’s arguments against formation of JIT

Further, Zardari’s counsel argued that a probe into the matter is already under way and being referred to a trial court.

However, the chief justice responded, “For a better investigation, we want to form a team based on experts.”

Ahsan then said, “NAB is capable and can conduct an inquiry on its own.”

“The JIT should not include members who the suspects have reservations with,” he added.

Justice Nisar then questioned which person do the suspects have personal reservations with and Ahsan responded, “Have personal reservations with Najaf Ali Mirza as one of the suspects had registered an FIR against him.”

The chief justice then assured that Mirza will not be included in the JIT.

The case

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

The former president’s other close aide and Omni Group chairman Anwar Majeed and his son, Abdul Ghani, were also arrested by FIA earlier this month.
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 sources.
The amount, according to FIA sources, is said to be black money gathered from various kickbacks, commissions and bribes.