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JIT wants assets of Zardari, Omni groups frozen

ISLAMABAD: The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that probed the Rs35 billion fake accounts case requested the Supreme Court on Saturday to order freezing of assets of the Zardari Group Pvt Ltd — which include Bilawal House in Karachi and Lahore and Zardari House in Islamabad — as well as those of the Omni Group.

Both groups, the JIT alleged in its fresh report, had amassed assets through misappropriation of loans, government funds, kickbacks and proceeds of crime.

Earlier the JIT furnished before the apex court a voluminous report in which it recommended placing names of 172 individuals on the Exit Control List (ECL), including PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, his son Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.

Assets have been amassed through misappropriation of loans, government funds, kickbacks and proceeds of crime, investigators allege in fresh report

But the court while hearing the case on Dec 31 took exception to placing the names on the ECL, particularly that of the chief minister, and directed the cabinet to reconsider its hasty Dec 27 decision.

In the fresh report, the JIT contended that prima facie evidence brought to the record during investigations clearly indicated that the Zardari and Omni groups, which started with a paid-up capital of Rs600 in 1981 and Rs6,000 in 2001, respectively, had amassed assets through misappropriation of loans, government funds, kickbacks and proceeds of crime.

The evidence suggested, it said, that the groups had a history of laundering their illegal proceeds abroad through illegal channels of Hundi and Hawala.

The report requested the apex court to order freezing of the assets of both groups held through different subsidiary and front companies and those held in the name of their directors, pending the final adjudication by the accountability courts, lest this “money laundering cartel” should shift their assets abroad.

The report highlighted that the International Business and Shopping Centre (IBSC) project identified by the JIT to be a “Benami” of Asif Zardari held in the name of his then front man Iqbal Memon (International Builders) was frozen in 1998. Later when Iqbal Memon got exposed and left the country for Canada, the property changed hands in 2000 through AR Developers of Nasir Jamal and ultimately came back in 2008 to be held by Asif Zardari, this time through Park Lane Pvt Ltd.

In its first report, the JIT had mentioned a transfer of Rs357 million from 12 fake accounts into the accounts of Ms Parthenon. It transpired that Ms Parthenon was a front company of M/s Park Lane since it had no independent business of its own when it entered into a joint venture with Park Lane.

Similarly, Plots C5 and 6, Clifton, Karachi, where Bahria Icon Towers was constructed, were identified and frozen in 1998 as “Benami” of Asif Zardari held in the name of Galaxy Construction owned by his then front man Saleem Akhter. This property again come back to be held by Asif Zardari through Galaxy Construction owned by his present front man Dr Dinshaw Hoshang Ankleseria.

The JIT recommended that the apex court should also order the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan not to change the ownership through the change of directors of any of the companies holding the assets in question.

The report also mentioned different assets owned by teh Zardari Group like Opal 225 Saddar, Karachi, IBSC Saddar of Park Lane, different farm houses in Tando Allahyar and Nawabshah, a set of some houses in Clifton called Bilawal House, agricultural land, different properties owned by Faryal Talpur, different vehicles of Asif Zardari that belonged to Tosha Khana, including bullet proof vehicles BMW 760, Lexus 570 and Mitsubishi SUV, and assets in foreign countries known to be held by Asif Zardari and Faryal Talpur.

Likewise the assets owned by the Omni Group and its directors included 16 sugar mills in different districts of Sindh, 19 power generation companies, agriculture farms, real estate and agriculture land, vehicles and bank accounts, the report said.

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