FIA seeks info about CEOs of 13 firms linked to Rs35bn money laundering case

KARACHI: The Federal Investigation Agency has approached the State Bank of Pakistan and Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) for getting details of the equity of Summit Bank as well as information about the chief executive officers of 13 firms, including the Zardari Group, linked to the Rs35 billion money laundering case, it emerged on Monday. This FIA has approached the central bank and SECP in the light of recent directions of the Supreme Court which has taken a suo motu notice of the case. A total of 29 ‘fake’ bank accounts were opened in three banks — Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and United Bank Ltd — and subsequently a sum of Rs35bn was transferred in the 13 accounts, including one belonging to Nasser Abdulla Hussain Lootah, an Arab who is also chairman of Summit Bank’s board of directors. FIA sources said that Mr Lootah, said to be a United Arab Emirates citizen, was considered to be a major beneficiary of the suspicious transaction as Rs7bn was transferred in his account. They said this was done to show equity in order to avoid possible suspension of the bank’s licence by the SBP. The sources said that Mr Lootah’s share in Summit Bank was around 58 per cent and rest of the shares belonged to other individuals. Mr Lootah was supposed to submit Rs17bn as equity but he had deposited only Rs3bn. The amount of Rs7bn was transferred in his account ostensibly for the purpose of showing equity, the sources added. That amount had been frozen on the directions of the Supreme Court. The FIA sources said that being a foreign national, Mr Lootah was supposed to bring money from abroad. However, they added that they made correspondence with the SBP and asked whether a foreign national can maintain equity locally. The FIA also sought details from the SBP to ascertain why the central bank as a regulatory body allowed it. The FIA sources said the correspondence between the SBP and Summit Bank was allegedly made by held suspect Hussain Lawai, who is Summit Bank’s vice chairman. Also, the FIA approached the SECP seeking details about CEOs/account operators of the 13 beneficiary firms during the specific period when the suspicious transactions were made. Till date, only one FIR pertaining to opening of one of the 29 ‘fake’ bank accounts has been registered against held suspects Mr Lawai and banker Taha Raza. Some others are still at large. Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2018

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