ISLAMABAD  -   Director General Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Bashir Ahmad Memon Friday told the National Assembly panel that total Rs 42.37 billion were allegedly laundered through fake or benami accounts in a mega money laundering scandal which allegedly involved PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardar and his close aides.

Giving a briefing to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior, the DG FIA said that total 32 fake accounts were opened and operated through different banks in the name of three employees of Omini Group and eight ordinary citizens including one deceased to launder the money in an organizes manner. “The Joint Investigation Team of FIA established 32 accounts as false accounts or identity theft cases,” he underlined.

He also revealed before the committee that FIA Lahore was investigating another similar case of mega money laundering.

“The total turnover in 32 fake accounts operated through different banks was Rs 42.37 billion,” he told the committee that met under the chair of MNA Raja Khurram Shahzad Nawaz. 

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is now investigating the famous fake or benami accounts case and Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari are facing the probe for their alleged involvement in the multi-billion scam.

Citing the investigations of JIT in the fake accounts case, whose report had already been submitted with the Supreme Court, Memon said that out of the 32 fake accounts , 15 were operated through Summit Bank, eight through United Bank Limited (UBL), seven through Sindh Bank, and one each through Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB) and Faysal Bank.

Giving a break-up of the total Rs 42.37 billion laundered, he said that the total turnover of 15 accounts of Summit Bank was Rs 26590 million, of UBL accounts was Rs 7930 million, Sindh Bank Rs 6186 million, MCB Rs 905 million and Faysal Bank  was Rs 761 million. He revealed that all these accounts had already been closed much before the action was initiated by the JIT. “Therefore no amount could be recovered from these fake accounts .”

He said that JIT analyzed banking transactions record of 11,500 accounts and conducted investigation on record of borrowing of 924 individuals and entities in the case. “Over 70 investigation officers including assistant sub-inspectors, sub-Inspectors, inspector and senior officers were sent to Karachi for investigations,” he said.

Replying to a question, the DG FIA said that some bankers have been arrested and the agency has handed over all record to NAB for further probe.

The DG also described the difficulties being faced by the agency while investigating such cases and said that FIA under the law cannot directly seek record from banks. On the other hand, the law gives powers to confiscate any record required for investigation without seeking prior permission from any court or authority, he said. He sought similar powers for the FIA.

In January 2018, the Supreme Court had taken the suo motu notice of the benami accounts case and directed the FIA to form a JIT to investigate it.

Committee member Syed Agha Rafiullah sought the complete details of the alleged money launderers and inquired about the present status of the anti-money laundering operation. On this, FIA chief said the details about the money launderers could not be made public and requested to arrange an in-camera briefing for the purpose.

Highlighting the paucity of manpower in the department, Bashir Memon said the FIA had devised a three-phase plan to overcome the human resource shortage. Over 1,000 officials have been recruited in the first phase and are being trained to improve the agency’s efficiency, he added