LONDON: The Pakistani government has removed the name of businessman Umar Farooq Zahoor from both the Exit Control List (ECL) and the Passport Control List (PCL).
The Interior Ministry and Directorate General of Immigration and Passports have confirmed through notifications that the Dubai-based businessman’s name has been deleted from the ECL and the PCL immediately and accordingly all Pakistani government offices have been informed.
The decision comes after the Interpol (International Police) in October this year removed Zahoor’s name from the list of international wanted persons (Red Notice) in a high-profile case initiated by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) — under ex-prime minister Imran Khan’s former accountability adviser Shahzad Akbar.
The Interpol had added the businessman to the Red Notice database after an application moved by Zahoor’s former wife and actor Sophia Mirza (alias Khushbakhat Mirza) with help from Akbar, who had tasked the FIA to go after the Dubai-based businessman in every possible manner.
The General Secretariat of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) in Lyon has confirmed that Zahoor is no longer subject to an Interpol Notice or diffusion.
Papers show that the Interpol Commission — made up of four members from the US, UK, Lebanon and Morocco — has deleted the Red Notice category for Zahoor after the FIA wrote to Interpol on September 26, confirming approval for the cancellation of Red Notice, in a case started by FIA Punjab Zone-1.
Zahoor’s name was added to Interpol’s most-wanted list after the FIA wrote to the international police and levelled several allegations against Liberia’s Ambassador-At-Large for South East Asia, Middle East, and Pakistan.
The name of Zahoor was removed from the Red list after the fresh investigation, conducted by the officers of FIA who are appointed by the new government, revealed that the allegations against him were frivolous and politically motivated.
Zahoor’s problems started when the FIA Lahore anti-Human Trafficking Circle registered a criminal case in March 2020 against him on the complaint of his ex-wife over allegations of kidnapping his own daughters.
At the same time, the FIA Corporate Crime Circle Lahore also initiated an inquiry against Zahoor over allegations of fraud and money laundering of around Rs16 billion on the complaint of the same complainant.
The complainant accused Zahoor of being involved in a fraud of $89.2 million in Oslo, Norway, in 2010 and another fraud involving an amount of $12 million in Bern, Switzerland, back in the year 2004.
The complaint made its way to the PTI government’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 Rs16 billion by Zahoor.
Immediately afterwards, Zahoor’s name was placed on the 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 Zahoor.
The Constitution of Interpol does not permit the issuance of Red Notices in family and civil disputes, however, the FIA added heinous offences in the FIR registered against Zahoor in order to apprehend him through Interpol.
Interpol had confirmed that international Yellow Notices for twins Zainab Umar and Zuneirah Umar were issued and their names were placed on the Interpol database for international tracing after two requests from the FIA were received on April 30, 2020, and then again in the month of July 2020 on the request of Mirza.
Names of Zuneirah and Zainab were later deleted in July 2021 after an investigation by Interpol revealed that the legal custody of both the daughters had already been granted to Zahoor being their father and legal guardian by the Shariah Court of Dubai and that the Pakistani authorities had abused the process in getting these notices issued.
The millionaire businessman welcomed the decision by the Pakistan govt to remove his name from the sanctions database.
He said: “After suffering injustice for a long time, finally justice has been done and my name has been removed from the control lists. I was placed on the ECL as an act of revenge and victimisation by Sophia Mirza and Shahzad Akbar.”
“They conspired against me and used power of the PTI govt to witch-hunt me in Pakistan. I was on great terms with Shahzad Akbar but he started blackmailing me in my dispute with Sophia Mirza.
“When I refused to agree to the financial demands of Sophia and Shahzad Akbar, I was later blackmailed and fake cases of money laundering were registered against him by the FIA at the behest of Shahzad Akbar and Sophia Mirza.”
A few days back, Zahoor caused a storm when he claimed he had bought some of the state gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch worth at least Rs2 billion, from Farah Gogi — ex-PM Khan’s wife’s friend — and Akbar.
In an interview with Geo News, Zahoor said he bought expensive items, gifted to the PTI chief by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, for $2 million.
He said that the adviser to the former premier on accountability had contacted him in 2019 to sell watches, rings and other gifts and said also has evidence to substantiate the claims he was making.
Mirza didn’t comment. Akbar has previously denied allegations against him.