The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Wednesday took former president Asif Zardari’s close aide and Omni Group Chairman Anwar Majeed into custody outside the Supreme Court, where he and his family appeared today after repeated absences from hearings of a case pertaining to money laundering through fake bank accounts.
Majeed and his family had been summoned to court on Aug 13 for the previous hearing of the case, but had not appeared before the three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar.
The CJP had then rejected the Majeed family’s notice of absence, contemplated charging them with contempt of court, and summoned them to appear in court at the earliest.
As Anwar, Nimr, Ghani, Kamal, and Zulqernain Majeed appeared before court today, the SC ordered their names be placed on the Exit Control List.
The bench was told that Anwar and Ghani’s names were already on the no-fly list, after which the court ordered that Nimr, Kamal and Zulqernain’s names be added to the list.
“If Asif Zardari, Faryal Talpur and (Bahria Town Executive Director) Zain Malik can appear before the FIA, then why not the Majeed family,” the CJP commented.
Justice Nisar said: “If the court wishes, the Majeed family can be taken into custody. I don’t have any objections to it.”
Subsequently, Anwar Majeed was taken into custody outside the court.
The presidents and chief executive officers of three banks allegedly involved in Rs35 billion in suspicious transactions used in money laundering have also been placed on the no fly list, and former Pakistan Stock Exchange chairman and Summit Bank vice chairman Hussain Lawai ─ another close associate of Zardari’s ─ has also been taken into custody.
‘Chaudhry Nisar included ISI, MI men in Panama JIT’
The court also discussed the matter of a fresh ‘Panama-style’ joint investigation team that it said would be set up to probe the case instead of the FIA JIT which Zardari and his sister earlier claimed to have reservations with.
The formation of the JIT has been delayed until the court hears the lawyers’ arguments in the case.
In the last hearing, CJP Nisar had hinted that the JIT would not have representatives from intelligence agencies namely the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI), as the Panamagate JIT probing the Sharif family did.
Justice Nisar had said: “Maybe the members of the ISI and MI were included in the Panama Papers leaks case to spice up (Tarka) the probe,” dismissing the possibility of inclusion of the intelligence agencies officials in the white-collar crime.
In today’s hearing, the top judge denied that the court had called for the inclusion of the MI and ISI officials in the Panamagate JIT.
“We discovered that Chaudhry Nisar had included them in the JIT,” he claimed.
Omni Group lawyer Shahid Hamid prayed that the court unfreeze the company’s accounts, which the court denied.
“The FIA will proceed with the investigation as it desires,” the CJP said.
The SC order in the Panama Papers judgement issued on April 20, 2017, says:
In normal circumstances, such exercise could be conducted by the NAB but when its Chairman appears to be indifferent and even unwilling to perform his part, we are constrained to look elsewhere and therefore, constitute a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) comprising of the following members:
i) A senior Officer of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), not below the rank of Additional Director General who shall head the team having firsthand experience of investigation of white collar crime and related matters;
ii) A representative of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB);
iii) A nominee of the Security & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) familiar with the issues of money laundering and white collar crimes;
iv) A nominee of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP);
v) A seasoned Officer of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) nominated by its Director General; and
vi) A seasoned Officer of Military Intelligence (MI) nominated by its Director General.