ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court expressed anger at placement of 172 individuals on the Exit Control List, as it resumed hearing the long-running mega money laundering and fake bank accounts case on Monday.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, who is leading a two-judge bench hearing the suo motu case, questioned how the federal government would clarify adding 172 suspects’ names to the no-fly list.
A Joint Investigation Team probing the money laundering case had held the Zardari and Omni groups responsible in its report submitted to the apex court last Monday. The report had also suggested that all the suspects in the case be placed on the ECL.
In view of the JIT findings, the federal government on Friday released a list of 172 suspects whose names were placed on the no-fly list. The list included Bilawal, Zardari, Sindh chief minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, presidents of a number of local banks, and other former ministers and bureaucrats.
Irked at the government’s move, the chief justice wondered how all these individuals could be barred from flying.
“How can the chief executive of the country’s second-biggest province be put on the ECL?” Justice Nisar asked the attorney-general in attendance.
“We had summoned replies from [these individuals], but the government placed them on the ECL,” the top judge remarked.
“[What if] the next name on the ECL is that of NAB chairman? Tomorrow your name [could] be added too!” Justice Nisar stated in his remarks to the attorney general.
“Who did this?” the judge asked, to which the attorney general replied that he would look into the matter.
“We will look into it ourselves,” Justice Nisar remarked, and summoned the concerned minister to appear before the bench.
“We cannot allow the government to be removed simply on the basis of a report,” the judge continued, adding that the court had not yet endorsed the JIT report.
During hearing of the case on December 24, the Supreme Court had summoned replies from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, party president Asif Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and other high-profile individuals named in the JIT report.
Zardari’s counsel Latif Khosa told the bench that Farooq H. Naik, another member of Zardari’s legal team, has excused himself from appearing in the court.
Farooq H. Naik was Zardari’s counsel in the case, but the JIT made him a suspect too, Khosa told the court.
The Supreme Court, however, dismissed the lawyer’s request to excuse him from appearance.
“No one can stop [Farooq H. Naik] from appearing in the court,” the chief justice remarked.
Approving Zardari and Talpur’s legal team’s request for more time, the court allowed them to submit their reply in the case by the end of this week.
The Supreme Court also instructed the Federal Investigation Agency to probe a fake audio call attributed to Latif Khosa.
The court said it will make a final decision after reviewing the JIT report.
The Federal Investigation Agency 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 sources.
The amount, according to FIA sources, is said to be black money gathered from various kickbacks, commissions and bribes.-Web Desk