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LAHORE: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Brig Musaddiq Abbasi (retired) has categorically directed the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) investigators not to arrest any accused or suspect unless his/her arrest is inevitable and the agency has concrete evidence(s) against them.

The premier’s accountability adviser passed this direction while reviewing the status of all high-profile inquiries and cases in light of requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) during his maiden meeting with investigators at the FIA Lahore Headquarters on Thursday.

According to the information released by the agency, the SAPM while directing the FIA investigators to effectively put all high-profile cases or inquiries to their logical ends without succumbing to any pressure and issued clear direction not to arrest any suspect/accused unless the FIA officials have concrete evidence(s) against them or their arrest were ‘inevitable’.

However, an official privy to the development termed the PM’s aide direction as ‘significant’ since there were rumours that the ruling PTI government wanted the FIA officials to aggressively peruse alleged corruption cases against the Sharif family and put Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif behind bar either in the Rs 16 billion money laundering case or for not honoring his affidavit which he submitted in the Lahore High Court (LHC) that secured his elder brother Nawaz Sharif’s departure from the country on medical grounds.

It may be mentioned that Abbasi visited the FIA headquarters shortly after the FIA transferred nine officials, two of them probing the sugar scam involving PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and PTI estranged leader Jahangir Khan Tareen, to Karachi in violation of the interior ministry’s rotation policy. However, the transfer orders were canceled after media highlighted the matter.

According to the FIA, the prime minister’s adviser was briefed in detail about the pace of investigation in cases registered in light of the sugar scam and petroleum commission reports. Moreover, Abbasi also reviewed the status of cases which were registered and being monitored by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and FATF.

Giving breakdown of the cases which came under review, the FIA says the SAPM was briefed about 15 cases registered in the light of sugar scam, followed by seven cases and eight inquiries initiated under petroleum commission report, eight cases pending before the Supreme Court against EOBI, six inquiries against Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) and inquiries against 99 housing schemes.

The case of Umer Farooq Zahoor, a Pakistani fugitive wanted to many countries for his alleged involvement in transnational financial crimes and money laundering, also came under discussion for his possible repatriation.

The FIA sources said that Musaddiq Abbasi also explored ways to sign memorandum of understandings (MoUs) with Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Financial Monitoring Units (FMUs) and Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) to develop a centralized system of information sharing.

He also directed the FIA senior command to exploit full potential of the Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) by effectively perusing inquiries and cases and recover looted money of the Pakistanis from other countries. He also directed the officers concerned to finalise proposed amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) for federal courts and investigation rules.

The SAPM also deliberated in detail regarding arrangements, including promulgation of an ordinance, for appointments of special prosecutors, who could represent the federal government in courts in high-profile cases. He assured the FIA that all the issues will be resolved soon.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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