Asif Ali Zardari arrested by NAB in fake accounts case

Former Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari was on Monday arrested by the country’s anti-corruption watchdog in a fake bank accounts case.

A 15-member team of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials, accompanied by police personnel, arrested the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-Chairman from his residence in the capital after an Islamabad High Court (IHC) bench rejected extending his pre-arrest bail, Geo News reported.

All roads leading to Zardari’s residence were blocked by the police.

Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur are being investigated for alleged money laundering by a committee comprising of members of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the intelligence services on the orders of the Supreme Court.

Talpur, a co-accused in the case, was also denied extension in her pre-arrest bail, but has not been arrested as yet.

According to an earlier report by the probe panel, the widower of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and his accomplices have laundered 4.3 billion rupees (around $28 million) through 29 bank accounts bearing the names of third parties.

Zardari has denied the allegations and claimed that the probe was politically motivated and instigated by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party led by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Zardari, who was President from 2008 till 2013, was earlier imprisoned on separate corruption charges in the 1990s and early 2000s.

He has spent nearly 11 years in prison in connection with different cases.

According to Geo News, the NAB is expected to keep Zardari in the bureau’s lockup. Zardari and Talpur now have the option of appealing the IHC judgment in the apex court.

The FIA is investigating 32 people in relation to money laundering from fictitious accounts, including Zardari and Talpur. Zardari’s close aide Hussain Lawai was arrested in July 2018 in connection with the probe.

The former President’s other close aides, Omni Group Chairman Anwar Majeed and his son, Abdul Ghani, were arrested by the FIA in August 2018.

The “benami” accounts in some private banks were opened in 2013, 2014 and 2015 from where transactions worth billions of rupees were made, reports say.

The amount is said to be black money gathered from various kickbacks, commissions and bribes.

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari urged party workers to remain calm. “The people have never accepted controversial court verdicts. The PPP believes in the rule of law despite biased court decisions,” he was quoted as saying by Dawn.

A number of PPP workers in Lahore protested against the IHC decision. They blocked the Metro Bus track, burnt tyres and chanted slogans against the government.