NAB grills Bilawal in fake accounts and money laundering case

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STAFF REPORT

RAWALPINDI

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari appeared before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) – after the third summon – to record his statement in the ongoing fake accounts and money laundering case.

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. According to the anti-graft watchdog, Bilawal has 25 per cent shares in the private fi rm Opal-225, a joint venture of Zardari Group. Addressing a press conference after his appearance, the PPP chairperson had raised questions about why he was asked to appear before the accountability watchdog.

Bilawal said that over a year ago, the then chief justice of Pakistan had stated that he was not guilty, adding that he had presented himself before the authorities three times and had also answered the bureau’s questions. He said that the last questionnaire was issued in May of last year. “They had no objections […] all of a sudden what happened in December when the fi rst notice was issued?” Bilawal alleged that he was issued another notice right after PPP announced a campaign against the current PTI government. He said that he had a detailed talk with the NAB team and they had issued him a questionnaire today. 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. “If I wasn’t even a public offi ce holder at the time, what sense does it make that NAB summon me?” he asked.

Later, the premier’s special assistant Akbar held a press conference in response to the PPP chairperson’s queries about why he was asked to appear before NAB. Akbar said that Bilawal had been summoned with regards to the JV-Opal joint venture Opal-225 in which NAB is conducting an investigation. He explained that the case was part of an investigation which was referred to NAB by the Supreme Court’s Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

He said that in the JV-225 case the Zardari Group is accused of money laundering from the company’s accounts. Akbar added that they were accused of building properties from the money taken from these accounts. “Unlike Bilawal, I will not lie to you, it is an allegation right now, it has to be proven and go before courts. But before that, you have to appear before investigative agencies.” “Are you so untouchable that you can’t be called by any institution for questioning?” Akbar asked. Responding to Bilawal’s remarks that a case was made against him despite the fact that he was a sevenyear-old when he became a shareholder of the company under question, Akbar said: “Bachay (child) this property was purchased between 2011-2014 when your abba jan (father) was the president.