Saturday, May 21, 2022
LAHORE: A special court in Lahore on Saturday extended the interim bail of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz until May 28 in the Rs16 billion money laundering case.
Judge of the Special Court (Central-I) Ijaz Hassan Awan also issued arrest warrants for Suleman Shahbaz, Tahir Naqvi and Malik Maqsood in the case, stating that the three have already been declared absconders by the magistrate’s court.
Judge Awan adjourned the hearing till May 28.
During the hearing today, Judge Ijaz Hassan Awan complained that due to the security of the prime minister others coming to the court had to suffer.
Replying to his complaint, PM Shehbaz mentioned that he has asked his security not to stop anybody. “I am appearing before the court in order to maintain its dignity and follow the laws of the country,” the premier added.
The presiding judge of the special court (Central-I) summoned the deputy superintendent of police (DSP) and station house officer (SHO); however, both officials denied appearing in the court. At this, the judge noted that the police do not adhere to the orders of the court.
Presenting his arguments in the court, Mohammad Amjad Pervaiz — counsel for PM Shehbaz and CM Hamza — said that charges were filed against his clients between 2008 and 2018 and the prosecution team had removed many of them in the challan.
He said that the record presented by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is “insufficient” to prove the charges levelled against his clients.
The premier's counsel argued that he has no connection with sugar mills and “none of the witness statements corroborated that he was a part of the sugar mill management.”
“Shehbaz neither has any share in the bank accounts nor a single penny from these 14 accounts were transferred to his account in last 10 years,” he said, adding that there is no evidence found in this regard.
‘Proved innocent in UK’
When the court asked PM Shehbaz to take the rostrum, the premier said he would have committed a crime if hadn’t appeared in the court.
“On the orders of former prime minister Imran Khan, an investigation was conducted in Britain and I was proved innocent,” PM Shehbaz recalled, adding that he returned to Pakistan back in 2004 and wouldn’t have come back if he had black money.
Regarding the investigations conducted by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and National Crime Agency (NCA), he stated that the latter investigated the matter for nearly two years; however, they found nothing against him.
Earlier, the FIA's special court had issued an order that it will indict PM Shehbaz and CM Punjab Hamza on May 14; however, it was delayed as the newly appointed prosecutor sought time for preparation.
It is pertinent to mention here that the special court in Lahore had summoned the father-son duo for their indictment in the case last Saturday but it was deferred due to the premier's foreign tour.
The court had to indict the father-son duo and others allegedly involved in the case in April, but due to the absence of PM Shehbaz, the process was delayed.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has barred the authorities from making postings and transfers in high-profile cases. The directives from the top court came during the hearing of a suo moto case.
On Wednesday, CJP Ata Bandial took the notice of perceived interference in the "independence of the prosecution branch in the performance of its powers and duties for the investigation and prosecution of pending criminal matters involving persons in authority in the government".
The chief justice took notice of the perceived interference on the recommendations of a judge belonging to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the statement issued by the apex court had said.
In December 2021, the FIA had submitted the challan against Shehbaz and Hamza before the special court for their alleged involvement in laundering an amount of Rs16 billion in the sugar scam case.
According to the FIA report submitted to the court, the investigation team has "detected 28 benami accounts of the Shehbaz family through which money laundering of Rs16.3bn was committed during 2008-18. The FIA examined the money trail of 17,000 credit transactions."
The report added that the amount was kept in "hidden accounts" and given to Shehbaz in a personal capacity.
This amount (Rs16 billion) has nothing to do with the sugar business (of Shehbaz family), it claimed. The money received from the accounts of low-wage employees by Shehbaz was transferred outside Pakistan via hundi/hawala networks, ultimately destined for the beneficial use of his family members, the FIA had alleged.
"Eleven low-paid employees of the Sharif group who 'held and possessed' the laundered proceeds on behalf of the principal accused, are found guilty of facilitating money laundering. The three other co-accused of the Sharif group also actively facilitated the money laundering," the agency had said.