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UAE national facing money laundering probe to hunt houbara bustard

KARACHI: The federal government has issued a special permit to a United Arab Emirates national — who is under probe on charges of money laundering — to hunt the internationally protected bird houbara bustard, it has been learnt.

According to sources, Nasir Abdullah Lootah is being pursued by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for his alleged involvement in a mega-money laundering scam in Sindh.

The Joint Investi­gation Team — formed on the Supreme Court’s direction to probe the scam — had mentioned Mr Lootah’s name among those involved in money laundering as well as top Pakistan Peoples Party politicians, including Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur.

The sources said that the hunting permit — DCP (P&I) dated 19/6/2018-19 (Allocations /UAE) — issued by the foreign ministry said: “The ministry presents its compliments to the Embassy of the UAE in Islamabad and has the honour to state that the government has conveyed its recommendations to the authorities in the concerned province for allocation of Thatta district (including tehsils Shah Bandar and Jung Shahi) to Nasir Abdullah Lootah for hunting of houbara bustard for the season 2018-19.”

“The foreign ministry avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the esteemed UAE embassy the assurances of its highest considerations,” stated the letter issued by the ministry’s deputy chief of protocol. It was delivered to the UAE’s embassy in Islamabad so that it could be sent to Mr Lootah.

According to the sources, usually the federal government issued special houbara hunting permits to the ruling elite of the Gulf States — rulers, kings, and their family members.

However, this time, a permit had been issued to a person who was being pursued by the investigation agencies on charges of money laundering.

The sources said that Nasir Lootah was the Summit Bank chief, which — according to investigation agencies — is in the centre of the mega money laundering scam being probed by the FIA and National Accountability Bureau. A top banker formerly associated with the Summit Bank, Hussain Lawai, is already in prison.

Although Mr Lootah used to come early in the season for hunting, the sources added, this year he had not arrived yet. How­ever, reportedly his guests had arrived for hunting.

Wildlife conservator Javed Mahar was not available for comment on the matter.

Department sources said that Mr Lootah had not violated any wildlife law and so he was not on the wanted list.

However, they added, if he was wanted for violation of some other laws the department or agencies concerned could take appropriate action.

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