Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry Sunday vowed that the looted money of corrupt politicians would be brought back from abroad and reiterated that fighting corruption was not the responsibility of Prime Minister Imran Khan alone, rather the entire state entities, society and the nation needed to play their role in this connection.
The minister alleged that the Sharif family laid foundation of modern corruption in Pakistan, while Asif Ali Zardari brought about innovation in it, hence the two parties looted the national wealth and then whiten it on the pattern of Hudaibiya Paper Mills.
Speaking here at a joint news conference along with Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar and Special Assistant to PM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, he came up with a detailed account of the menace of money laundering, which according to him was introduced by none else but Ishaq Dar, when he got enacted the Economic Reforms Act, 1992.
Fawad explained that from mid-80s till the beginning of 90s, the Sharifs had accumulated a lot of wealth and were in a fix on how to manage it and turn it white to use within Pakistan or anywhere else. He also talked about how the Shahbaz Sharif family, including his son-in-law Ali Imran, spouse Nusrat Shahbaz, Salman Shahbaz and his daughters all of a sudden started leaving the country after Nawaz Sharif family in the wake of money-laundering investigations.
Fawad noted that a number of fake accounts were used and ghost persons involved in money laundering, including vendors and ice-cream and dessert sellers.
The minister brushed aside the speculations about the presidential system in Pakistan, explaining that the consensus Constitution envisaged a parliamentary system of governance.
“In 1992, the Economic Reforms Act was introduced, which had an apparently innocent provision, which said that the source of money coming from abroad will not be questioned by the authorities,” Fawad Chaudhry pointed out.
“In 1996-97 and then 1997-98, the authorities noticed a very suspicious transaction and found that the company behind it was Hudaibiya Paper Mills, which had a total value of Rs95 million. All of a sudden, Rs810 million worth of foreign remittances were credited to the company’s accounts,” he continued.
He said an investigation was thus started and it was discovered that the owner of Hudaibiya Paper Mills was Mian Muhammad Sharif, the father of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, while his mother Shamim Akhtar, Mian Abbas Sharif, Maryam Safdar, Sabiha Abbas, Hussain Nawaz and Hamza Shahbaz were its directors.
“Investigations revealed that an economic hitman, Ishaq Dar, was hired. Dar introduced a novel method for money laundering: fake accounts. Money was deposited in these fake accounts and then sent abroad through Hawala Hundi. Thereafter, the money arrived back in Pakistan through TT (Telegraphic Transfer) to accounts of 40 individuals, all of whom were related to the Sharifs (including) some very distant relatives,” he said..
The minister said that all of this was described by Dar under oath to a magistrate in 2008, in a confession which outlined each and every detail. Probe during Musharraf’ rule could not continue and the Sharifs were given an NRO. He noted all the subsequent cases of corruption followed the exact scheme adopted under the Hudaibiya Mills. He said Hill Metal Establishment followed the same method as in Hudaibiya Paper Mills. He explained that Hussain Nawaz sent around 126,768 euros. The overall amount sent by him was around Rs1,165.6 million, through TT to Nawaz Sharif.
He continued that out of this amount, Nawaz Sharif then gave Rs820 million to Maryam Nawaz, who then bought agricultural land from that amount. The minister also mentioned how properties were bought for Shahbaz’ spouse Tehmina Durrani and Nusrat Shahbaz in DHA Phase-V, Rawalpindi, Whispering Pines Apartments, H-96 Model Town Camp Office, Model Town House No 87 and DHA-5 and the ultimate beneficiary was Shahbaz Sharif.
The minister shared what he called details regarding the NAB investigation into Shahbaz Sharif holding assets beyond known means of income. “Authorities noticed that 200 swift messages were generated and $26 million dollars were transferred to the Shahbaz Sharif family,” he continued.
He claimed that almost the entire family’s income could be traced to telegraphic transfers while they were not earning even a single rupee in Pakistan. He said Shahbaz Sharif’s sole declared income was what he earned as chief minister. “There was no other income. The real beneficiary in all this was Shahbaz Sharif,” he claimed and noted that multiple real estate properties were bought with money obtained through telegraphic transfers.
Likewise, he noted that Nusrat sent money in 2008 to Shahbaz for payment of customs duty of his luxury vehicle. He pointed out that money came to Pakistan when the Sharifs required it and hence the money which was brought in Pakistan was just a fraction of the wealth they kept abroad. He claimed Sharifs had no evidence of how they got this wealth.
Turning to Asif Zardari, Fawad said the senior politician came up with an innovation with regard to the whole exercise. He threw light on investigation carried out by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on the fake accounts case. He explained that while in the case of the Sharifs, there was the creation of and use of fake accounts, Zardari bought an entire bank for himself and then an entire network was created in Sindh, where fake accounts were created and money was transferred to people like the one who sold an ice cream dessert in Faisalabad, guards, drivers, who saw millions of rupees transferred to their accounts.
The minister continued that in all the cases, money was transferred to insignificant people, such as gardeners, drivers, guards, etc.
When an investigation began into those accounts, he noted, the FIA unearthed the involvement of around 5,000 accounts of which 32 accounts were the main accounts which branched out to the others. “Everything was traced to these accounts: payment for Bilawal Bhutto’s aircraft expenditures, for Ayyan Ali’s tickets, and for the expenditures of Bilawal House. Moreover, Bakhtawar’s birthday expenses were also paid through these accounts,” he explained.
He noted that the documented evidence of Shahbaz Sharif’s case and that of Zardari was not a heresy. He said the entire nation was behind the prime minister and wanted logical end to the ongoing accountability process.
Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar said the corruption of previous governments during the last 10 years led to inflation, falling exchange rate of Pakistan rupee, and all sorts of issues faced by Pakistanis. They said Pakistan’s debt increased by $60 billion during the last 10 years.
Shahzad Akbar said that the mothers and sisters were respectable, but when such transactions came up, involving Sharif ladies, the NAB had to do its duty and questions would be asked. He regretted that a panic was created regarding the arrest of ladies.
Hammad Azhar said former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was giving his opinion on current economic situation based on assumptions. “No independent economist had endorsed the policies of Ishaq Dar and even the World Bank and Asian Development Bank in their reports had talked about the past’s macro-economic imbalances,” he said.
Shahzad Akbar laid emphasis on the NAB to improve its prosecution, as some had secured pre-arrest bail while others could not even get post-arrest bail. He said it won’t be a surprise if the PML-N’s ‘Ayyan Ali’ emerges in coming days.