LAHORE (Baaghi Investigations Desk): An investigation by Baaghi TV establishes that actor and model Sophia Mirza used her relationship with Imran Khan’s former powerful minister Shehzad Akbar to manipulate the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Lahore’s Corporate Circle to attack her former husband Umar Farooq Zahoor.
The FIA has confirmed that Sophia Mirza lied in her application against her former husband and didn’t reveal her full identity and also didn’t reveal that she actually making an application against her former husband.
It was in early June 2020 when the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Lahore’s Corporate Circle received a sensational complaint about an alleged fraud of around 16 billion Rupees from a concerned citizen Khushbakht Mirza about the Dubai-based Pakistani-Norwegian businessman Umar Farooq Zahoor.
On the advice of Shehzad Akbar and Dr. Rizwan, Sophia Mirza didn’t write her popular name in the application. The complaint by Khushbakht Mirza (known as Sophia Mirza in the showbiz and media industry) urged the FIA to take action against businessman Umar Farooq Zahoor for the sake of Pakistan’s name and to prevent financial crimes against Pakistan.
The complaint made its way to the PTI govt’s federal cabinet agenda via the Interior Ministry, being run then by Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) Chairman Mirza Shehzad Akbar, and the federal government gave a go-ahead to the FIA to probe the alleged fraud of over 16 billion Rupees by Umar Zahoor and his relative Saleem Ahmad.
The cabinet was told by the Interior Ministry that two separate cases have been registered against Umar Farooq Zahoor by the Corporate Crime Circle of the FIA after completing inquiries in both cases and during the inquiries, it came to light that Umar Farooq Zahoor and the co-accused had allegedly committed a bank fraud of $89.2m in Oslo, Norway, in 2010 and another fraud involving an amount of $12m in Bern, Switzerland, in 2004.
Baaghi has obtained a copy of the original complaint by actress Sophia Mirza made before the FIA in June 2020 which triggered action against Mr. Zahoor. In her application of allegations over two pages as a “lawful citizen of Pakistan”, the actress didn’t reveal anywhere that she was the former wife of Umar Farooq Zahoor.
She alleged that Umar Farooq Zahoor and his family were involved in money-laundering; had committed “crimes and frauds in different countries including Norway, Oslo; defrauded a bank in tune of $20 million dollars; was convicted and wanted in Norway; committed fraud of $120 million in Switzerland; was involved in smuggling of minors; committed fraud of 9.37 million Turkish Lira; executed shady deal of $510 million in Ghana; owns millions of dollars in cash in the shape of black money and many houses and properties in Dubai and Pakistan worth hundreds of millions of Dollars including in Dubai’s upper-class districts, Sialkot, Gwadar, and Islamabad.
The cabinet didn’t ask any questions before approving the summary but what the Interior Ministry hid from the cabinet was the most crucial and damning fact: the concerned citizen Khushbakht Mirza was actually the former wife of Umar Farooq Zahoor with whom she has a long-running dispute over the custody of their two daughters. Twin sisters Zainab and Zunerah have been living with their father in Dubai since 2008 after the couple ended up in a bitter divorce.
The cabinet was not informed that the Supreme Court of Pakistan and a Shariah Court of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had already settled the matter of custody of the couple’s two daughters. The cabinet was informed that the FIA knew well about the whereabouts of Mr. Zahoor. Before the registration of two corruption cases, Ms. Khushbakht had also managed to get a case registered against Mr. Umer Farooq Zahoor and others for kidnapping his own daughters. The FIA, despite being cognizant of the fact that it is settled law of a country that a case of abducting own children cannot be registered against any of the parents, proceeded with the registration of a case against Mr. Umar Farooq under instructions of Shehzad Akbar, who was at the time Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Immediately after the Federal Cabinet approved the summary, FIA Lahore Chief Dr. Rizwan started action against Umar Farooq Zahoor: his name was placed on the Exit Control List (ECL); non-bailable warrants in one of the FIRs were obtained from the Court without fulfilling the legal requirements and on the basis of said non-bailable warrants, his passport and CNIC were blacklisted and Red Warrants were issued through INTERPOL by National Crime Bureau (NCB) Pakistan for arresting Mr. Zahoor.
Umar Farooq Zahoor, who is Liberia’s Ambassador at Large, initiated a legal case against the FIA action, and the matter reached before the court where key facts came to the light, establishing that the FIA action was vindictive and the agency was used for personal purposes.
The Additional Session Judge Lahore Rafaqat Ali Gondal vide his order dated 29 March 2021 set aside the non-bailable warrants issued earlier as same were obtained without following the mandatory legal procedure provided under Criminal Code. The Court observed that Section 87 and 88 of CrPC 1898 provide a complete procedure that has to be followed before declaring any accused person to be a proclaimed offender and proper notices have to be issued to the accused person before issuing perpetual warrants against him or declaring him a proclaimed offender but in this case “no such notice has ever been issued to the applicant”.
Mr. Umar Farooq Zahoor also approached the Lahore High Court for the removal of Red Warrants issued against him. Justice Shujaat Ali Khan, after hearing the case at length, directed the FIA on 09 June 2021 to immediately withdraw the Red Warrants issued against Mr. Zahoor.
The court observed that any criminal proceedings against Mr. Zahoor, who is Ambassador at Large for the Republic of Liberia since 2019 for the regions of the Middle East and Southeast Asia including Pakistan, enjoys immunity under Article 29 and Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations which provides immunity to the ambassadors and diplomats against all kinds of criminal prosecution, arrest, and detention.
The FIA challenged the said order before the Supreme Court of Pakistan where it was upheld and the FIA has so far failed to withdraw the illegal Red Warrants. It is worth noting that Mr. Zahoor has also filed a Contempt Petition against the Secretary of Interior and others for not implementing the Order of the Honorable Lahore High Court.
A recent court order has again exposed how the FIA officials acted outside of the law to go after Umar Farooq Zahoor while Shehzad Akbar and FIA’s Lahore Chief Dr. Rizwan monitored the case and dedicated their efforts to hunt down Umar Farooq Zahoor at any cost. Despite the clear orders of the Lahore High Court that Mr. Zahoor enjoys diplomatic immunity, the FIA again issued a Diffusion Notice against Mr. Zahoor and Saleem Ahmad on the pretext of active non-bailable warrants against them in cases of corruption.
To save himself from the illegal FIA action, Umar Farooq approached Judicial Magistrate Lahore in the court of Ghulam Murtaza Virk who heard the case. The court’s order reveals that FIA effectively lied to Interpol that it had permission from the same court for action against the businessman and issued a Diffusion Notice in pursuance of the said permission. Judge Mr. Ghulam Murtaza Virk noted that “from the bare perusal of reports it reveals that in both the cases FIR 36 of 2020 and 40 of 2020 neither any non-bailable warrants of arrest have been issued from this court nor any report has been submitted by FIA. Therefore, the stance taken by the FIA authorities in the diffusion letter written to the Interpol that challan in both the cases have been submitted before this court is against the record”.
In March 2022, it was reported in the charge sheet against Memon that he had facilitated illegal Pakistan visits of Umar Farooq Zahoor, against whom there was a pending Red Arrest Warrant and a request to INTERPOL for his arrest. Media at the time linked Umar Zahoor with Bashir Memon and raised the issue of alleged corruption but none had any idea that at the heart of the whole controversy is a broken marriage and custody battle of two daughters, both 15. During the hearing of the same case of Bashir Memon before the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the FIA presented a report before Justice R Baqir that there was a non-bailable arrest warrant for Mr. Umar Zahoor – in reality, there was no such warrant in place at all.
Documents show that the FIA Lahore started both corruption cases against Umar Zahoor in the month of October 2020. It was not just a coincidence that the Pakistan FIA started cases against Umar Zahoor when authorities in Norway had already closed the case and Switzerland authorities were about to drop the case, delete the arrest warrant and end the investigation. It’s understood that the FIA was well aware of the status of both cases when it opened cases in urgency in Pakistan.
Court records show that authorities in Switzerland had started a case against Umar Zahoor and New Zealand national Shaun Morgan for running an illegal bank called “Bank International” from December 2003 to February 2004 for allegedly misleading clients into investment transactions. Swiss authorities confirmed to this reporter that on 7 December 2020 the case against Umar Zahoor was dropped without any further action due to lack of evidence and the time-bar issue.
The Public Prosecutor of Kenton Zurich Mr. Jean-Richard-dit-Bresssel confirmed it was decided “the criminal case against Umar Zahoor for fraud is discontinued” on 5 October 2020. Official papers of the Switzerland govt confirm that arrest warrants issued by Interpol against Umar Zahoor were deleted in March 2021 after the closure of the investigation.
About the same case in Switzerland, a Turkish citizen Erhan Kanionglulari had made a complaint in 2005 to Pakistan authorities and at the request of the Turkish embassy, a probe was started against Umar Zahoor. The Turkish national had alleged he was the victim of alleged fraud in Switzerland to the tune of 9.73 million Euros.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) started an inquiry into Umar Zahoor and the Turkish national visited Pakistan to assist the inquiry.
In a report submitted by NAB to the Karachi Accountability Court, the court was told that the Turkish national failed to provide any documentary or oral evidence to support his allegations regarding the investment made by him with Umar Zahoor. He left Pakistan with a promise that he will return to Pakistan with original documents but never returned. The NAB inquiry recommended that the case against Umar Zahoor should end in a report in October 2005 but the Executive Board of the NAB recommended tracing of illegal assets of Umar Farooq and sought the assistance of the Turkish embassy. For seven years the Turkish embassy didn’t cooperate with NAB and DG NAB Sindh finally wrote to the Accountability Court Karachi in August 2013 to end the case and on 25 February 2014, the case against Umar Zahoor was closed.
A case was registered against Umar Zahoor in Norway in 2010 on the allegation that some bank officials of Nordea bank of Norway colluded with some private persons to fraudulently deprive Randi Nilsen of 89.2 million Norwegian Kroners and transferred the same to UAE banks.
Official papers of the Oslo police confirm that the case against Umar Farooq Zahoor was dismissed on 12 May 2020. “The case is dismissed since it is assumed there is no reasonable grounds for investigating whether a crime has been committed, cf. the Criminal Procedure Act 224 1st Paragraph,” said the Oslo Police District.
Umar Farooq Zahoor’s lawyer said: “It is apparent from the orders of the Court that the FIA has a personal ax to grind against Umar Farooq Zahoor and malicious campaign against him was run by the Interior Ministry on Shehzad Akbar’s instructions in connivance with Sophia Mirza. The FIA was used to attack Umar Zahoor in cases which were already closed and in which Mr. Zahoor had been vindicated.”
Shahzad Akbar was sent questions about his role in taking the complaint to the cabinet but he didn’t reply. Sophia Mirza was asked why she didn’t declare in her complaint that she was making a complaint of allegations against her former husband including in cases where the inquiries had been closed but she didn’t respond. However, she refused to answer. She didn’t answer questions about her relations with Shehzad Akbar.
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