Umer Farooq wanted in Norway Switzerland Turkiye Pakistan cases

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LAHORE: The Federal Investigation Agency has not dropped a criminal case against Umar Farooq Zahoor, who is wanted by Norway, Switzerland, Turkiye and Pakistan since 2009-10 in various financial and other crimes, official sources said on Wednesday.

Zahoor’s name hit headlines just a day ago when he claimed in an interview to have bought from the former PTI government an expensive Graff wristwatch, which was gifted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to then PM Imran Khan, for over $2m.

Mr Khan, however, denied the allegation and vowed to sue the alleged buyer and a Pakistani media group in courts of the UK and the UAE for a ‘fabricated’ story.

While the FIA had been actively pursuing a case against Zahoor in the PTI government, the agency reportedly lost interest in it after the PML-N-led coalition took over in April due to the alleged connections of the fugitive with those in power

In January, the FIA director general formed a four-member JIT to take up with the UAE administration Zahoor’s repatriation for his involvement in transnational financial crimes. Two former FIA chiefs Bashir Memon and Saud Mirza were also questioned by the agency for allegedly ‘facilitating’ him.

The FIA in collaboration with the Interpol National Central Bureau (NCB) director, the joint interior secretary and the Middle East director at the Foreign Ministry were to pursue efforts with the UAE government regarding the extradition of Zahoor and co-suspect Mohammad Zubair, and repatriation of two minors.

During the investigation, it was surfaced from Interpol NCB Islamabad’s record that the FIA top officer had withdrawn Interpol yellow notices issued for search and repatriation of abducted minors Zainab Umar and Zuneirah Umar (illegally removed from lawful custody of mother Khushbakht Mirza a Pakistani model known as Sofia Mirza and transported abroad on counterfeit IDs/travel documents.

It emerged during the probe by the FIA Lahore that while accused Zahoor should have been investiga­ted, he was rather “unlawfully facilitated by FIA in 2018-19” in freely tra­velling to and from Pakistan despite being on Interpol red warrant’s watch-list. The FIA also probed whe­ther any portion of the crime proceeds of $12m in Switzerland, 89m kroner (Nordea Bank Fraud Oslo 2010) had been laundered to Pakistan by him.

The FIA is also investigating how an internationally wanted fugitive (Zahoor) against whom a Red Notice was issued in 2015, managed to visit Pakistan between 2017 and 2019 for at least 32 times with impunity.

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