ISLAMABAD: A hefty amount of over Rs787 million was deposited and then withdrawn from an undeclared account, allegedly maintained by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) with a now-defunct bank, a probe by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has revealed.
The revelation comes some three weeks after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) ruled that the PTI obtained funds from prohibited sources, something which the PTI still denies.
The FIA is currently seized with the prohibited funding case against the former ruling party.
A document, obtained by the FIA from the defunct bank — seen by Dawn — reveals that the PTI had officially authorised four individuals to operate the account.
The list of names includes Fariduddin Ahmed, who came to prominence after the release of the Pandora Papers regarding the offshore holdings and potential tax evasion by bigwigs, released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in October of last year.
List of four operators includes man named in Pandora Papers leak
In the disclosures, it emerged that two offshore companies, namely Hawk Field Limited and Lock Gate Investment, were registered in the name of Mr Ahmed. Documents showed his address in Pakistan as 2-Zaman Park, Lahore – the residence of PTI chairman Imran Khan.
At the time, Mr Khan’s special assistant Shahbaz Gill had denied Mr Khan’s association with Mr Ahmed, claiming that neither the PTI chief knew the man personally, nor had be ever met him.
Later, Mr Ahmed had also denied any link between Mr Khan link and his offshore companies, but said that both he and Mr Khan had a shared Burki heritage.
Another authorised account holder is Omer Farooq aka Goldie, the owner of Shapes Gym, who is said to be a close friend of Mr Khan. The two others include Hamid Zaman and Rai Azizullah.
The decision to allow these four persons to operate the account had been taken by the central finance board of the PTI, according to a notification issued on December 26, 2012, days before the account was opened. The notification carried signatures of the then-central finance secretary of the party, Sardar Azhar Tariq.
While almost all the banks shared statements and other financial details with the ECP, including foreign exchange remittances received by the PTI, the now-defunct bank in question has only now shared details with the FIA, having earlier refused to cooperate with the ECP.
In a letter written on July 16, 2018, the bank had initially sought more time from the ECP, and finally expressed its inability to share details with the ECP citing software incompatibility as the reason through another letter dated August 20, 2018.
It is interesting to note that during this five-week gap between the first and second letter, the country witnessed general elections (held on July 25, 2018) and PTI chairman Imran Khan took oath as the prime minister on August 18, 2018.
Dawn tried to contact several PTI leaders, including senior vice-president Fawad Chaudhry and Sardar Azhar Tariq, but they did not respond to requests for comment, despite repeated attempts.
When contacted, a spokesperson with the PTI’s Central Media Office said it was a “disbursement account” and not a collection account, adding that there was nothing illegal about it.
Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2022