The Supreme Court has sent the fake accounts case to NAB and told it to file a reference if it has enough evidence to do so. It wants the bureau to complete its investigation in two months.
The court also wanted to know why Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s name was added to the ECL in the fake accounts case and ordered it to be removed from both the JIT report and the no-fly list. The court has also ordered the name of Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to be taken off the ECL and out of the JIT report.
During the hearing on Monday morning, a bench headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, also asked lawyers of the defendants whether the case should be referred to NAB, as the JIT wants.
The bench told the lawyers to give statements on whether the case should be sent to the accountability bureau. After seeing so much evidence (in the form of documents) can we close our eyes to it, asked Justice Nisar.
Referring to the PPP chairperson as “innocent Bilawal”, the top judge said he had come to Pakistan to continue his mother’s legacy. Yet the JIT added his name to the ECL, observed the top judge. He asked why the JIT wanted Bilawal’s case to be sent to NAB.
The JIT didn’t even respect the chief minister, he noted. “Was Bilawal’s name added to the list to defame him?” questioned the top judge. He asked what knowledge Bilawal had of the business and fake accounts.
He said they will not allow the chief minister to be exploited. Ordering the names of both Shah and Bilawal to be taken off the ECL, the court did, however, stipulate that they could be summoned for questioning if necessary.
The court has also removed the names of Farooq H Naek and Attorney General of Pakistan Anwar Mansoor’s brother Asif Mansoor from the JIT report.
The JIT lawyer, Faisal Siddiqi, said there are 11 fake companies. He said Bilawal is a 50% shareholder in the Parklane Company and a beneficiary of the fake accounts, which is why they added his name to the list. However, the court said simply being a part of the company cannot justify a person’s name being placed on the list. Siddiqi said Bilawal has no practical association with the case but his father, Asif Ali Zardari, does.
Did angels open the fake bank accounts, asked Justice Nisar. He asked who the beneficiaries of the fake accounts were. The JIT had the mandate to investigate all these matters, he said.
Lawyers from the Omni Group informed the court that the group paid money to purchase these sugar mills. The Naudero Sugar Mill was bought in 2001 and the Dadu Sugar Mill in 2008, said the Omni Group’s lawyer. Justice Ahsan asked where the resources to purchase the mills came from.
When the lawyer argued that the JIT had presented incorrect information relating to the purchase of the mills, Justice Arab said the criminal aspect of the case cannot be overseen by the Supreme Court.
It can only be overseen by the trial court, he said.
The JIT’s report is contrary to the truth, the Omni Group lawyer argued.
Justice Nisar said NAB will investigate how these billions were made and how these accounts were opened. Falooda and dahi bhalay vendors’ accounts lead back to the Omni Group, he said. The Omni Group has connections to politicians and property tycoons, he remarked.
Khawaja Tariq Raheem, the lawyer for Bahria Town, informed the court that lawyer Farooq H Naek’s son has been mentioned in Paragraph 275 of the JIT report. Naek is Asif Ali Zardari’s lawyer. The accusation is that he purchased two houses in Karachi on his wife’s name, said Raheem. It is said that NAB is investigating relations between Naek and the Sindh government, he said, adding that they have objections to the action against lawyers.
Justice Ahsan said that through the investigation they’ll get to know whether there are any relations or not. There is nothing off the limits in this country, he said.
Raheem said that doing so will open Pandora’s Box. We are opening everyone’s Pandora’s Box, replied the top judge. We will scrutinise all the documents relating to Farooq H Naek, he said. “You people are all involved with [Bahria Town head] Malik Riaz,” he said. Another bench is already looking into Riaz’s matter, but don’t force us to hear the case today and order arrests, he warned.
If there is so much evidence against Malik Riaz why wasn’t he arrested, asked Justice Nisar. You want to say he is an extremely honest man, he told the lawyers. NAB will investigate this evidence and if a case can be made, it will file it, he added.
The attorney general also informed the court that the matter of 172 names being added to the ECL was presented before the cabinet. The cabinet will decide it during its meeting on January 10 [Thursday], he said.
The Omni Group lawyer contended that on January 1, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Media Iftikhar Durrani said the government hadn’t placed anyone’s name on the ECL. This is why we sent it to the cabinet again, explained the chief justice.