Pakistan’s top model, Ayyan Ali, appeared in court earlier this week after she was caught with $500,000 on her way to Dubai.
Since her arrest, rumours have been circulating about her connections with powerful Pakistani businessmen and politicians, some allegedly involved in money laundering, in a country where corruption is rampant.
“This is one story we could all have done without,” a March editorial in the daily Dawn newspaper moaned.
Police say they received a tip to search Ali on March 14 as she waited in a VIP airport lounge in Islamabad before her Dubai flight.
While Pakistani law bars any passenger from carrying over $10,000, investigators say they found $506,800 tucked into her luggage.
Ali has maintained the money was solely hers since her arrest. She’s been held without bail since, attending a number of court appearances in expensive clothes.
Judge Rana Aftab set Ali’s next appearance for June 15.
But the absence of hard evidence hasn’t stopped Pakistani television from reporting the story, with one broadcaster even using computer graphics to make it appear Ali stood in a courtroom dock in its studio.
Media outlets across the board have tried to link Ali with a larger scheme purportedly involving other Pakistani A-list celebrities, using their fame as a cover to travel abroad and put illicit money into offshore bank accounts.
Property tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain even went on satellite channel Geo TV to deny allegations Ali previously flew on his private jet.
“I have got nothing to do with her,” Hussain said. “My plane was never used for her.”
Hussain has close ties to former Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. A former confidant of the leader, Zulfikar Mirza, has given a series of interviews alleging the model was linked to members of Zadari’s Pakistan Peoples Party, and visited the presidency several times.
Zardari’s spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, denied the claims, saying that he wouldn’t like to “give any credence to this man’s utterances.”