Money laundering scam: CJP denies giving orders to put Zardari, Talpur in Exit Control List

File photo of Asif Ali Zardari. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

PTI Islamabad, Pakistan Jul 12, 2018, 11.01 PM (IST)

Pakistan's Chief Justice Saqib Nisar on Thursday denied giving orders to include the names of former Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur, allegedly involved in the Rs 35 billion money laundering scam, to be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL).

The Interior Ministry had on Wednesday said that Zardari and Talpur have been placed in the ECL on the apex court's order. Persons put on the ECL are prohibited from leaving Pakistan.

The Dawn on Wednesday reported that the orders were issued, ahead of the July 25 general elections, to the Interior Ministry by the apex court in connection with a case concerning an investigation into fake accounts and fictitious transactions worth billions conducted through several mainstream banks. 

Zardari, 62, is the former co-chairperson of Pakistan People's Party. He served as the 11th President of Pakistan from 2008 to 2013.

Seven individuals, including Zardari and Talpur, were allegedly involved in using certain bank accounts for suspicious transactions totalling Rs 35 billion, according to the media report.

The CJP, during the hearing on Thursday, also asked the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to refrain from questioning both PPP leaders until after the July 25 polls.

"Tomorrow no one should be able to make excuses that the elections have been rigged," the CJP was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.

Justice Nisar also said that if they are not suspects, then why did the media report that their names have been placed on the ECL.

"We have still not placed their names on the ECL," the CJP said, adding: "This impression must be eliminated."

The CJP further said that the names of whosoever had been placed on the ECL would remain in the country until August 6. If someone turns out to be innocent, their names will then be removed, he added.

"We took this notice on the basis of media reports," the CJP said. "The corruption scandal should be investigated to reassure poor citizens."

Meanwhile, Zardari's lawyer Farooq H Naek, told the court that his client is being accused of holding Rs15 million in his accounts. He told the court that the PPP co-chairman had no ties to the Zardari Group. 

"He is not even the group's director," Naek added.

The CJP asserted there must be a fair probe into the matter, to which Naek responded that the probe is being conducted by FIA's Najaf Mirza, whom Zardari had earlier filed a case against.

The chief justice said that a new joint investigation team (JIT) could be set up to probe the case, which concerns a 2015 FIA investigation into fake accounts and fictitious transactions worth up to Rs35 billion conducted through 29 'benami' accounts in Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and UBL.