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SC orders to form JIT to probe money-laundering case against Asif Ali Zardari


News Analysis |

The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) has ordered in its much-awaited decision to constitute a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to look into money-laundering and fake accounts case, allegedly involving former president Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur. The SC ordered the formation on the recommendations of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). The FIA presented its report on the 28th August and recommended the court to form a JIT.

“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. The court has also directed the Rangers to provide security to officers of the FIA. 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.

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.

DG FIA Bashir Memon submitted a detailed report before the court regarding the case. Memon recommended the formation of a seven-member JIT to probe the matter and said the team should comprise representatives from the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR), State Bank of Pakistan, Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), National Accountability Bureau (NAB), FIA as well as members from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI).

The DG FIA also recorded his statement before the court. “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”, he added.

Read more: FIA requests formation of JIT in Supreme Court to probe money…

The Background of the Case

The FIA is currently 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.

Since the experts in the JIT of Panama Papers made it difficult for the accused to get any escaping way, Mr. Ahsan who is a senior lawyer and is supposed to be well aware of the organizational shortcomings of the institutions like the NAB was deliberately arguing against the formation a JIT.

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.

JIT: Things becoming difficult for Zardari?

Aitzaz Ahsan, counsel for Asif Ali Zardari, was not comfortable to form a JIT.  “A probe into the matter is already underway and being referred to a trial court”, Mr. Ahsan said. But the CJP said to him that “for a better investigation, we want to form a team based on experts.” Since the experts in the JIT of Panama Papers made it difficult for the accused to get any escaping way, Mr. Ahsan who is a senior lawyer and is supposed to be well aware of the organizational shortcomings of the institutions like the NAB was deliberately arguing against the formation a JIT.

Read more: Zardari, Faryal among others in money laundering probe: JIT

Political analysts in Pakistan argue that Asif Ali Zardari who is seeing a tough future was making all his efforts to get a deal with the government or the establishment to avoid these cases. Some people in Pakistan even argued that during the presidential elections the PPP indirectly supported the PTI in order to please the establishment and the PTI.

Later on, the results also reflected if the PPP would have stood by the opposition alliance the PTI would have not won. These speculations are yet to be evaluated on the basis of the future developments in the case. The formation of the JIT is, however, an indicator of a tough time ahead for the PPP chairman Mr. Zardari.

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