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Sunday, January 29, 2023

SC grants Zardari aide, Anwar Majeed, bail on medical grounds in fake accounts case

The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday, granted bail to the head of Omni Group and close aide of former president Asif Ali Zardari, Anwar Majeed, on medical grounds in the fake accounts case.

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The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) on Wednesday granted bail to Anwar Majeed, the head of Omni Group and a close aide of former president Asif Ali Zardari, on medical grounds in the fake accounts case. Majeed will remain on the no-fly list, the court said.

Justice Mushir Alam headed the two-member bench that ordered his release. During the hearing today, the court directed Anwar Majeed to submit a bank guarantee of Rs100 million to the SC registrar, and submit his passport to the court.

Munir A Malik, the lawyer for the defendant, told the bench that his client had been advised to undergo surgery in the United States or the United Kingdom. However, according to reports, the court did not give him Majeed permission to travel abroad.

A prosecutor of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) informed the top court during the hearing that since the day of his arrest, Majeed had not appeared at the NAB office. The court ordered Majeed to cooperate with the bureau immediately.

Read More: Fake accounts case: NAB summons CM Sindh today

Anwar Majeed should be treated abroad, assert doctors 

Previously, in a report submitted to the Islamabad High Court, medical experts and personal doctors of Majeed had testified that the Omni Group head should be treated in either the UK or the US for his ailments.

In a report submitted to the court, the doctors said that the 78-year-old Majeed could not be admitted to a hospital because of the coronavirus outbreak, and would thus require special care at a private facility. The IHC had rejected the report.

However, earlier this year, Majeed was shifted to the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases in Karachi after he experienced “shortness of breath, giddiness and extreme discomfort in his chest”. His previous bail was approved on March 27, 2020.

What landed Anwar Majeed in trouble: The fake accounts case

Majeed, along with the former president, and others, has been accused of being involved in money laundering worth Rs35 billion through fake accounts. Majeed was arrested after an investigation into the case was launched by a federal agency.

In October 2015, the anti-corruption wing of the Federal Investigation Agency in Karachi received a tip-off of suspicious intra-bank transactions from the Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and the United Bank Limited.

The profiles of the account holders did not match their earnings/income. FIA authorities suspected that these accounts were being run by the Zardari Group and Omni Group, amongst others. The case dragged on until June 2018, when the Supreme Court took suo moto notice of the fake accounts and directed a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the matter.

The investigation team concluded that 32 fake bank accounts were being operated by 11 fake entities to launder money from “kickbacks, land grabbing and large scale misappropriation of public funds.”

Former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, Hussain Lowai, the then-president Summit Bank, Nasser Abdullah Lootah, chairman Summit Bank, Chairman Omni Group Anwar Majeed, and his son became the prime suspects in the case.

The JIT also concluded from the investigation that the Omni Group had immensely benefited from the transactions. The investigation team stated that the group had a “startling and unprecedented (abnormal) growth 2009 onwards,” interestingly, after the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) took power.

Read More: Fake accounts case: CM Sindh records statement before NAB

Bail on medical grounds as a precedent 

The Lahore High Court, in November 2019, allowed former premier Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for four weeks for medical treatment, saying the duration could be extended based on medical reports. In a blow to the government, which had placed a condition of indemnity bonds for Nawaz’s travel, the court ordered the federal government to remove his name from the Exit Control List (ECL) without any conditions.

A two-judge bench, comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem, started hearing the petition at 11am and after multiple breaks, delivered the verdict. In the court-approved undertaking, Nawaz assured that he would return “within four weeks” ─ a time frame that was missing in the initial handwritten undertaking.

“Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif is granted one time permission to travel abroad as an interim arrangement for four weeks and will return when certified by doctors that he has regained his health and is fit to return back to Pakistan,” read the court order.

Nawaz’s brother, who appeared in court, hailed the decision, saying the prayers of his mother, the nation, and supporters have been granted. He signed an undertaking that stated he would “ensure return” of his brother “within four weeks or on certification by doctors that he has regained his health and is fit to return back to Pakistan”.

“I further undertake to provide/send the periodical medical report of the doctor duly notarised by the embassy to the registrar of this court,” said the document signed by Shehbaz.

However, Nawaz has not returned back to Pakistan since then. The IHC, taking notice of this, has asked Nawaz to return before 10 September. Political and legal experts are puzzled as to what will happen next. Some claim that Majeed could ask the court to allow him to travel abroad for treatment as Nawaz did.

Read More: Will Nawaz Sharif surrender to court on September 10?