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NAB reports progress in fake accounts case investigation to SC

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Friday submitted to the Supreme Court its first progress report on the ongoing investigation in the fake accounts case.

The Supreme Court had last month tasked NAB with probing the case after a joint investigation team report revealed that at least 29 bank accounts identified as fake had been used for money laundering to the tune of Rs42 billion. The report implicated former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, prominent banker Hussain Lawai, Omni Group’s Anwar Majeed and other prominent bankers and businessmen.

The top court had given two months to NAB to conclude its investigation. It had also ordered the body to submit a progress report every 15 days.

According to the report prepared by NAB Rawalpindi Director General Irfan Mangi, the anti-corruption watchdog has asked relevant departments for their records and is collecting additional evidence in order to determine whether a reference should be filed.

Last month, NAB Chairman Javed Iqbal had formed a combined investigation team (CIT) in a high-level meeting to probe the case. It was decided 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.

Normally when a complaint is filed with NAB, the bureau initiates an inquiry. 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.

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Sindh govt asks top court for clarity on Jan 7 ruling
Separately today, the Sindh government raised objections over the Supreme Court’s Jan 7 verdict in the fake accounts case and appealed to the top court to modify or clarify its ruling.

The Sindh government’s petition points out that the 29th paragraph of the joint investigation team’s report had recorded the reservations of Sindh’s advocate general on behalf of all concerned parties regarding the probe team’s “methodology as well as the admissibility of the material and and documents on the basis of which conclusions have been drawn by the JIT”.

The same paragraph of the report also contains the advocate general’s statement that Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah “was never involved in any of the matters relating to the FIA (Federal Investigation Agency)”, nor was he “aware that any investigation was being undertaken against him”, said the appeal.

Referring to the advocate general’s statement recorded by the JIT report, wherein he “conceded that […] the matter could be referred to NAB for further probe”, the petition insisted that the statement was “general in nature and not with reference to the contents of the JIT report”.

The appeal urged the court to “review/modify/clarify the last sentence” of its Jan 7 verdict as “otherwise the impression that may be created by the present wording” might cause “unnecessary and unwarranted embarrassment” to Shah.

Furthermore, the petition pleaded that Supreme Court’s verbal ruling, which it claimed had ordered the exclusion of Shah and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s names from the exit control list (ECL) as well as from the JIT report, be implemented.

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Bilawal and Shah were among the 172 people whose names were placed on a no-fly list after the JIT report mentioned them in connection with the alleged scam. Bilawal and Shah’s names were subsequently removed from the ECL after the top court ordered the government to review its decision.

The petition, submitted by the Sindh government today, asked the top court to “modify” paragraph 35 of the verdict in order to “include the direction that the names of Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and and Murad Ali Shah be removed from the JIT report”.

The Sindh government further pleaded the top court to “revise” paragraph 37(vi) of its Jan 7 verdict and direct authorities to hold the inquiry of the case in Karachi instead of Islamabad. If NAB decides to file a reference, the petition added, it should be “prepared and presented before the NAB” in Karachi.

Holding the inquiry of the case in Islamabad “will give rise to very serious administrative, logistical and other issues which could seriously hamper the course of the inquiry/investigation and other proceedings resulting in a very real likelihood of a denial of due process”, the petitioners have argued.

PPP chairman urges top court to review fake accounts verdict
A separate petition filed today by Bilawal asked the Supreme Court to review its Jan 7 verdict as “there are errors… floating on the face of the record warranting review of the order”.

The appeal states that Article 184 of the Constitution grants Supreme Court the power to take suo motu notice “only for the most exceptional circumstances”.

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The petition argued a suo motu notice regarding any pending investigation “by any authority or body including FIA and NAB… is not warranted as any order or observations made by the apex court would necessarily affect or may even seriously prejudice” the probe.

Bilawal appealed that the Jan 7 ruling be reviewed “in the interest of justice” and urged the court to form a larger bench to hear the review petition.
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