Monday Sep 27 2021

UK court orders frozen bank accounts of Shahbaz Sharif, family to be restored

LONDON: A UK court has ordered the unfreezing of PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif and his family's bank accounts for lack of evidence of corruption and money laundering. 

The UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) unfroze the bank accounts of former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif and those of his son, Suleman Sharif, on Monday. 

The NCA had conducted a 17-month long probe in which it examined Shahbaz Sharif's financial transactions over the past 20 years. In it, no evidence of money laundering or criminal activities against the PML-N president or his family were found. 

The NCA submitted the investigation report of the bank accounts at the Westminster court in which it said that Shahbaz and his son were not involved in money laundering practices in Pakistan, Dubai and the UK. 

The NCA had requested the UK court for an extension when it first began probing the case, stating that it needed more time to complete the probe against Shahbaz in multiple countries. 

The agency then wrote a letter to Shahbaz Sharif, calling upon the PML-N leader to share details of his accounts with them otherwise, they would legally scrutinise the accounts by obtaining a production order. 

The NCA had initiated a probe against Shahbaz Sharif and his family after the ARU had shared evidence with the UK crime agency. 

Shahbaz and Suleman's bank accounts were frozen in December 2019 by the NCA following a UK court order. 

ARU or NAB did not request UK to initiate inquiry against Shahbaz, Suleman: Shahzad Akbar

Advisor to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar said that reports of Shahbaz Sharif being acquitted by the British court were incorrect, clarifying that neither had the ARU nor NAB requested the UK government to initiate a probe against the PML-N leader. 

He said the inquiry had been initiated over a "suspicious transaction" that a bank had reported to the NCA, adding that these consisted of certain funds transferred by Suleman Shahbaz from Pakistan to the UK in 2019. 

"[These transactions] were declared as a suspicious transaction by the UK authorities and the NCA secured an asset freezing order(AFO) from the court against these funds," he tweeted. 

"However, recently the NCA decided to stop investigating these funds and therefore agreed for the release of these funds through the court.

"It is clarified that such a release order is not an acknowledgement that funds are from a legitimate source," he added. 

The prime minister'a aide said that Shahbaz and Suleman have not been acquitted since they had not been tried to begin with. 

"The funds were frozen by the NCA and the NCA has decided to not investigate these funds anymore," he added. 

"Suleman Shahbaz remains a fugitive in a money laundering case against him and his father before the AC Lahore," he added.