Zardari, Talpur challenge SC order in fake accounts case; say it is ‘not justified at all’

Review petition terms order as “contrary to spirit of justice”, urges court to “recall and review”.

Last year, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed by the Supreme Court had submitted a report alleging that a close nexus had been found between a troika of Zardari Group, Bahria Town and Omni Group in the ‘fake accounts’ scam. The report revealed that at least 29 bank accounts had been identified as fake which had been used for money laundering of Rs42 billion.

The top court, in an order passed in the case on Jan 7, had referred the JIT report and evidence collected to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for further investigation, directing the anti-corruption watchdog to wrap up its investigation within two months.

“In the facts and circumstances of the case and in the light of the JIT report, which has no evidentiary value in the eyes of law, this honourable court was not justified at all to passing any order at all, giving directions to NAB, thereby curtailing rights of the petitioners and others,” the appeal submitted on Monday read.

The review petition argued that there were “no direct allegations” levelled by the JIT against the petitioners and the report itself had “recommended further probe” against the accused.

“The failure of the JIT to probe allegations of FIA (Federal Investigation Agency) were endorsed by this honourable court vide order dated Jan 7, 2019, thereby issuing certain directions which are uncalled for, illegal and require revisit and review,” the petition said.

The appeal declared that the filing of a reference in NAB Rawalpindi was “unlawful” as the “entire alleged record” of the case was in Karachi. The top court, in its issued judgement, had directed NAB to file references against the accused in an accountability court in Rawalpindi or Islamabad — not in Karachi.

Review petition also pointed out that the FIA had so far been unable to submit a final chalan in the banking court and the petitioners had been willing to cooperate in the investigation.

The petition termed the the order as “contrary to the spirit of the rule of law and the constitutional dispensation” and urged the court to “recall and review” its decision.

Last week, NAB formed a combined investigation team (CIT) to probe alleged ‘fake’ bank accounts and money laundering suspicions against top Pakistan Peoples Party leadership, bankers and players in the real estate business.

The CIT, which is an internal NAB mechanism, was formed by the bureau’s chairman, retired Justice Javed Iqbal, in a high-level meeting held at the NAB headquarters.

According to the NAB spokesperson, the SC judgement pertaining to the fake accounts case was reviewed at the NAB meeting. NAB chief Javed Iqbal is to directly supervise the official proceedings of the CIT, as per law.

It was decided at the meeting that investigations into fake bank accounts and money laundering would be taken to their logical conclusion in the light of the judgement of the apex court and on the basis of solid evidence. The accountability bureau has asked the media to meanwhile avoid speculation.

The apex earlier this month had asked NAB to conclude its investigation within two months; those found guilty of corruption will have two options – either face a reference or ask for a plea bargain. Though the JIT had recommended 16 references against the accused, how it would treat the JIT report and how many references would be filed depended on NAB.

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