The JIT report submitted in the Supreme Court revealed that how a nexus of corruption developed in Sindh under the patronage of provincial government and political leadership. The JIT in its report exposed this nexus of politicians and businessmen. The nexus between Zardari group, Omni group, and Bahria Town joined hands and earned billions of rupees through kick backs, allotment of state lands, corrupt practices, bank loans, commissions, and shadowy deals. They helped each other to amass wealth through unfair means.
They used fake bank accounts in three banks, bogus companies and front men to stash and money launder the ill gotten money. Former president Asif Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur used their political position to strike business deals and to award contracts to their close friends. The rise of Omni group in just one decade is phenomenal. They grow from three companies to 83 companies within decade and a half really unprecedented.
This JIT report clearly shows that when politicians in power joins hands with businessmen to take advantage of their positions then how quickly they can amass billions of rupees through illegal, unethical, corrupt and unfair means. That is exactly how the elite are enriching itself at the expense of poor people.
The nexus of corruption between politics and businesses established in late 1970s as military dictatorship took power. This nexus continue to grow over the years. Some people used politics to enrich themselves. Politics becomes profitable commercial activity to earn wealth and then protect it since 1990s.
A whole layer of politicians and businesses emerged during last 30 years as the result of this corrupt nexus. There were no fears of accountability for many. They continue to make gains through corrupt practices and misuse of authority. The JIT in its report correctly pointed out that it is just a tip of iceberg of corruption, money laundering, and misuse of authority.
The fake accounts, it was soon discovered, were operated by certain companies, which were found to be fake. Funds were credited into these accounts from contractors with multi-billion rupee contracts with the Sindh government. This money was then transferred to accounts of companies owned and operated by the Omni Group, whose chairperson, Anwar Majeed, is a close aide of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari. Another beneficiary was Nasir Lootah, the chairperson of Summit Bank and a member of Dubai’s ruling family.
The money was even used to cover the personal expenditures of the leadership of Sindh’s ruling party, including millions paid to a travel agent, payment of electricity bills and for the purchase of luxury vehicles.
Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice of the slow progress in the money laundering case. Officials arrested another close aide of Zardari, Hussain Lawai, on July 6, a few days after he was barred from leaving the country. The septuagenarian Lawai had previously headed Summit Bank and was currently serving as chairman of the Pakistan Stock Exchange. He was arrested along with another banker, Taha Raza, and two others.
According to the report, the investigations revealed a web of companies and accounts that were being used to transfer billions of rupees. Most of the accounts were either being operated in the Sindh Bank, owned by the provincial government, Summit Bank, which is owned by a UAE prince with alleged close ties to Zardari and United Bank Limited (UBL).
In all, 29 accounts were identified that received payments, totaling at least Rs35 billion. At this point, the agency also submitted three lists in the court. One comprised the Sindh government’s major contractors, who transferred billions of rupees into the fake accounts. The second list identified the seven fake companies, while the third, which stirred the most controversy, contained the names of those who had benefited from these payments.
Those working on the case believe that Omni group’s Anwar Majeed and his son Abdul Ghani Majeed are the masterminds behind the entire scheme. The day-to-day dealings were, however, carried out by two company executives, Aslam Masood and Arif Khan. Both have left the country. What the FIA investigators did confirm was that these accounts, many of which were opened in the names of Omni Group’s low-cadre employees, were used for layering, as well as transferring money to different accounts through which real estate was purchased.
Omni Group chief Anwar Majeed was arrested along with son Abdul Ghani Majeed on August 15, when they returned to the country on being summoned by the apex court. They are now on judicial remand.
Meanwhile, Asif Ali Zardari and Faryal Talpur have appeared before the investigators and have since secured interim bail from the Banking Court. The last hearing of the case was on December 21, when the duo got their fourth extension in the bail till January 7.
Anwar Majeed and company had their own problems to deal with. The JIT, by this time, had unearthed irregularities in loans amounting to over Rs73 billion taken by nine sugar mills belonging to the Omni Group from the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) as well as other private banks. As many as nine new inquiries were registered in the FIA’s Karachi commercial banking circle.
According to the JIT’s report submitted to SC on October 26, Omni Group owed a total debt of Rs73 billion to different banks. It took Rs23 billion from the National Bank and Rs50 billion from Sindh Bank, Silk Bank and Summit Bank.
The JIT, during the course of its investigation, learnt that the Omni Group had shifted the sugar bags, which were kept as pledges, from the sugar mills to an undisclosed location, or had sold them without informing the bank during the hearing of the money laundering case.
In the meantime, accounts in the names of several unwitting individuals, such as the ice cream vendor and a rickshaw driver, were found to have been used to transfer funds. These individuals had no connection to the Omni Group or any other individual associated with the case.
The scope of the inquiry now includes over 300 persons of interest, scores of bank accounts and companies associated with them. At the centre of it all are Anwar Majeed, his sons, bankers Hussain Lawai and Taha Raza, the incumbent and a former chief minister and two former chief secretaries, besides the leadership of Sindh’s ruling party, Asif Ali Zardari and his sister, Faryal Talpur.
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17 November, 2019