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NAB forms body to grill Zardari, Faryal in fake accounts case

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday 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. The CIT, headed by Irfan Naeem Mangi, Rawalpindi NAB DG, started functioning on Tuesday.

Mr Mangi was part of a joint investigation team (JIT) formed by the Supreme Court to probe the ‘Panama leaks’ revelations against ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The recent meeting was attended by the NAB prosecutor general, director general operations, director general NAB Rawalpindi and other senior officers. The CIT is to summon all 172 persons suspected on the issue and record their statements.

A combined investigation team will summon all 172 persons named in JIT report

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. In a recently issued judgement, the Supreme Court directed NAB to file references against the accused in an accountability court in Rawalpindi or Islamabad, and not in Karachi.

The interior ministry has already placed the names of 170 persons suspected of wrongdoing on the issue on the Exit Control List (ECL), including Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, former chief minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah, Anwar Siyal, and Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz. The names of PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah have been removed from the ECL, but they will have to take recourse to a plea bargain or face the case against them.

The NAB initially starts an inquiry on any complaint. In case credible evidence is found, the inquiry is turned into an investigation, after which it is decided whether or not a reference should be filed in an accountability court. In this specific case, the prime minister’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar had said that NAB will not go for an inquiry but will initiate investigation on the basis of the inquiry conducted by the JIT formed by the SC.

In the JIT report, 172 people have been accused of having fake bank accounts and indulging in money laundering. The filing of 16 different references against them was recommended. According to the SC order given on Jan 14, 170 accused, including Mr Zardari, Ms Talpur, and Malik Riaz, will continue to remain on the travel watchlist.

The apex court 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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