PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, after being summoned three times by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), appeared before the accountability watchdog on Thursday to record his statement in the fake bank accounts and money laundering case.
According to the anti-graft watchdog, Bilawal has 25 per cent shares in the private firm Opal-225, a joint venture of Zardari Group.
Addressing a press conference following his appearance, Bilawal said he had a detailed talk with the NAB team and they had issued him a questionnaire. According to NAB sources, the PPP chairperson’s statement was recorded and he was issued a written questionnaire, adding that he has been given 10 days to submit his response.
Bilawal said that over a year ago, the then chief justice of Pakistan had stated that Bilawal was innocent, adding that he had presented himself before the authorities three times and had also answered the bureau’s questions.
According to Bilawal, the last questionnaire was issued in May of last year.
“They had no objections […] all of a sudden what happened in December when the first notice was issued?”
Bilawal claimed that he was issued another notice after PPP announced a campaign against the current PTI government.
The latest NAB notice sent to Bilawal, dated February 7, stated: “You are hereby again called upon to appear before Combined Investigation Team-4 of NAB (Rawalpindi) along with the following record for clarifications and recording your plea on 13-2-2020 at 1100hours without failure.
“Submit attested copies of resolutions of board of directors for the period 01-01-2008 to 01-12-2019 and any other evidence you want to produce in support of your plea. You are advised that failing to comply with this notice may entail penal consequences as provided in Section 2 of National Accountability Ordinance-1999.”
Prior to this, he was sent two notices in December last year but had termed the call-up notice served to him by the anti-corruption watchdog as “unconstitutional and illegal”.
PPP leaders show support
Various party leaders — including PPP Punjab President Qamar Zaman Kaira, former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman and PPP Secretary General Nayyar Bukhari — and supporters gathered outside NAB’s old headquarters in Rawalpindi ahead of Bilawal’s appearance.
PPP Senator Sherry Rehman addresses a press conference on Thursday. — DawnNewsTV
Addressing a press conference alongside other PPP leaders, Kaira said: “We’ve been speaking about the NAB-Niazi nexus, now courts are also speaking about it,” he said, adding that courts were saying NAB was “ill-prepared”.
Meanwhile, Rehman said that Bilawal could not be made a party in the case NAB was questioning him about as he was not a public office-bearer [at the time].
Case against Bilawal
PPP leaders have been accused of transferring billions of rupees to Opal-225 via fake bank accounts. The company also took loans of billions of rupees from banks.
According to NAB, Bilawal had 25 per cent shares in a private firm, Opal-225, a joint venture of the Zardari Group.
The anti-graft watchdog, which has been investigating fake bank accounts and money laundering case against PPP leaders, filed eight references in the Accountability Court, Islamabad, on December 9, 2018.
On May 29, 2019, the bureau had served a 32-point questionnaire to the PPP chairperson during his short appearance in the bureau’s headquarters.
The NAB headquarters had already shifted the fake bank accounts and money laundering case from its Karachi office to Rawalpindi office last year. The investigations in the case are being faced by 172 important personalities, including Bilawal, former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, former chief minister Qaim Ali Shah, incumbent minister Anwar Siyal, Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz and others.
Their names were placed on the Exit Control List (ECL), but Bilawal and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah’s names were later removed from the travel ban list on a Supreme Court directive.