Tuesday Jun 22, 2021
PML-N President and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif on Tuesday appeared before the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in a money laundering probe that involves a sugar mill owned by the Sharif family.
The notice sent to Shahbaz had asked for a response to Rs25 billion allegedly having been sent to accounts of low-grade employees of the Ramzan Sugar Mill. A questionnaire of 20 items was sent via his advisor and Shahbaz was asked to send responses along with his signature.
In a parallel inquiry, Hamza Shahbaz has been summoned on June 24.
The FIA had summoned Shahbaz at 11am, however, the Opposition leader arrived at the office at 11:47am.
Shahbaz and Hamza had earlier obtained pre-arrest bail, till July 10, from a banking court. The court, in its written verdict directed both to submit bail bonds of Rs1 million each. In the event the amount is not submitted, FIA reserves the right to arrest Shahbaz and Hamza. It is also incumbent upon both to appear before the FIA whenever summoned.
A five-member FIA team questioned him for half an hour, with Director FIA Punjab Zone-1 Dr Rizwan leading the interrogation.
Security was beefed up outside the FIA offices prior to Shahbaz's appearance. A large crowd of PML-N supporters gathered outside the building.
As Shahbaz was leaving, officials called him again to probe him for a second time, sources said, adding that it was not clear on whose instructions and why was he called again. He was questioned for half an hour more.
FIA officials refrained from commenting on the matter.
PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, speaking to media on the occasion, said the opposition leader had been summoned due to the "FIA-Niazi nexus".
"FIA's office is Imran Khan's office now, just like NAB's office was established at Prime Minister House. But now, after the fall of the NAB-Niazi nexus, the FIA-Niazi nexus has come into play," she added.
Last week, the FIA Lahore wing had summoned Shahbaz in its ongoing probe into the sugar crisis that led to a shortage and an extraordinary hike in the commodity's prices.
The FIA, in the notice, served to the PML-N president, said he would have to appear before the anti-corruption watchdog on June 22, and if he fails to do so, he could be sent to prison.
The notice further said that Shahbaz had to answer questions about peons and other low-grade employees of the Al-Arabia Sugar Mills and Ramzan Sugar Mills receiving Rs25 billion.
"Are you aware of the deposit and withdrawal of Rs25 billion in fake accounts associated with the Ramzan Sugar Mills, Al-Arabiya Sugar Mills, and others?" the notice asked.
The notice said that Shahbaz was sent a questionnaire twice and he did not respond. "You (Shahbaz) were sent a notice for the second time in January. You had said that Ata Tarar would respond on your behalf, but he never did."
On May 30, Prime Minister Imran Khan okayed decisive action against owners of 38 sugar mills — a fresh move that granted permission to FIA to arrest a few millers who were already facing money laundering, sugar satta, and insider trading charges.
PM Imran Khan advised Special Assistant on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar to direct the FIA Lahore to submit its conclusive report on millers within the next four weeks, informed officials told Geo News on Sunday.
At the time this news was reported, 14 FIRs of satta-driven artificial price hikes had been registered by FIA teams. Six more FIRs were to be lodged in the coming weeks.
The FIA teams had claimed they have evidence against 38 sugar mills leading to illicit gains and money-laundering of around Rs110 billion.
One FIR was registered over organised banking fraud to cover illicit gains from extraneous sources of over Rs25 billion from 2008-2018 through the operation of 20 bogus accounts in the name of peons/clerks of Ramzan Sugar Mills leading to allegedly money-laundering by Sharif (Shahbaz Sharif) family.
“[Alleged] corporate fraud by Al-Arabia Sugar Mills through GNC undisclosed (grantis) sales and accounting jugglery of reversal of sales — inexplicable transfer of Rs1.195 billion by Al-Arabia to Ramzan Sugar Mills not disclosed in financial statements — inexplicable transfer of Rs402 million by Al-Arabia to Sharif Feed Mills and Sharif D. Farms since 2017-18," the official document further read.