FeaturedNationalVolume 14 Issue # 08

Accounting for fake accounts

The government has identified more than 15,000 fake accounts which were used to launder over Rs700b. Overseas properties of Pakistanis, worth over Rs100m, have also been detected initially. The figures will increase as the investigation progresses. Few countries have also agreed to return corrupt money to Pakistan. Though bringing back the looted wealth is still difficult, yet the government’s steps will pave the way for identifying the accused and checking corruption and money laundering in the country.

 

The government has also set up a central authority to bring back looted wealth, with members of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). Action is being taken only against big fish initially and the rest of the offenders will be arrested later. The government is in contact with 10 countries. Details of all Iqama (work permits) holders are also being collected from Dubai and Saudi authorities. According to the government, most Iqama holders use their work permits to conceal their looted money abroad. When the authorities sought records of Pakistani nationals living abroad, the names of Iqama holders were not included in it. However, it was bad news for money launderers when the government started gathering details of all Iqama holders. The accounts and foreign properties were found during investigations in the ongoing cases. The government plans to share details of each and every case with the media when corruption references will be filed against the accused.

 

The government has also traced the Sharif family’s new property in central London. According to information from UK authorities, Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, the late wife of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, owned a flat in central London which her husband had failed to disclose in his assets details. The government has also found evidence that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shahbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz had illegally used the prime minister’s plane during the party’s previous term, squandering Rs340 million from the national exchequer on their air travel. Details about the funds spent in the name of gifts by the previous government over the past five years have also been gathered. It is said Shahbaz Sharif spent Rs600 million of taxpayers’ money on his air trips during his stint as Punjab chief minister and spent another Rs600 million on the provision of security to the Sharif family’s Jati Umra residence in Raiwind.

 

NAB has also found another big scam against Shahbaz Sharif. According to preliminary investigations, he sold over 30 kanals and 10 marlas land of the shrine of Shah Shams Qadri, adjacent to GOR-I, Lahore, to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) at just Rs900 a marla. The rules were flouted on the orders of the chief minister’s office and a summary to sell the land was directly sent to the then chief minister, without the approval of the then Aukaf minister. Under the law, trust property cannot be sold under any circumstance.

 

NAB has also finalised a reference against four suspects, including Shahbaz Sharif, in the Ashiana Housing case. He is accused of benefiting private individuals while misusing his authority. The reference says he illegally used the powers of the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) board of directors and cancelled the contract of a company, which was selected on merit, and granted it to a company linked to former Railways Minister Saad Rafique. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Principal Secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad became an approver in the case. Fawad, in his statement before NAB, claimed that he had awarded the contract to the “favourite firm” in the Rs14 billion Ashiana project at the behest of Shahbaz Sharif. In another blow to Saad Rafique, former MPA and director of Paragon City, Qaiser Amin Butt, has filed a petition to become approver against him.

 

A ruthless accountability process has started in Pakistan and its scope has been expanded to other countries. It is said all corrupt leaders would be arrested before March 2019. All past rulers and ministers, who committed corruption, have realized that the noose is tightening around their necks. Many startling revelations have come to fore during investigations and investigators have collected concrete proof against them. The work stared a few years ago. In most cases, evidence was provided by close aides of the accused. Many have become approvers against them. It is said Lyari gang war leader Uzair Baloch and model Ayyan Ali have turned approver against former President Asif Zardari in fake accounts.

 

However, the opposition claims only its members are being targeted while PTI ministers are being ignored. It is said the process will be fair this time and many close aides to Prime Minister Imran Khan could also be arrested. Federal Minister Azam Swati is under investigation for power abuse and living beyond his means. Defence Minister Pervez Khattak is also being probed for corruption during his tenure as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister. It is said action will soon start in the Punjab and the PTI may lose many people from its own ranks and the PML-Q, which is its ally. It is said action will start after the PTI government in the Punjab becomes stronger in a few months. Close aides to Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) Ameer Fazlur Rehman could also be netted.

 

Meanwhile, the NAB has completed investigations against former President Zardari and Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz and fifteen other politicians for money laundering, illegal assets and power abuse. The politicians include eight from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), four from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, three from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and two from the ruling party. Concrete evidence has been found against them. It is said five high profile arrests could be made from Sindh and two from the Punjab in few weeks. It is said departments concerned have been directed to keep an eye on them, with a view to stopping them from fleeing abroad. Their aides are also being investigated for corruption. Relevant departments have also started pondering over a strategy to maintain law and order after their arrest. Details of investigations and statements of the accused will also be made public to inform the nation about evidence against them. It is good news for the nation, which has waited for 70 years for uniform action against the corrupt elite.

 

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