Money laundering case: Court acquits Suleman Shehbaz

Court grills FIA officer regarding probe of money laundering case, seeks proof over its creation

Shahid Hussain
Suleman Shehbaz, son of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. — Twitter/File
Suleman Shehbaz, son of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. — Twitter/File

  • Court grills FIA officers over case's probe.
  • Suleman's counsel maintains case was baseless.
  • FIA says it took action in light of sugar inquiry commission.

LAHORE: Suleman Shehbaz, the son of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, along with all others accused in the Rs16 billion money laundering case filed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), have been acquitted by a special court in Lahore on Monday.

The court's orders came after the hearing of pleas filed by Suleman and others seeking their acquittal in the case. During the hearing, the premier's son was present in the courtroom alongside his lawyer, Advocate Amjad Parvez.

After completing a four-year self-imposed exile in London, Suleman returned home to Pakistan in December last year. He was not only accused in the aforementioned case, but also nominated in an assets-beyond-means reference. He was also declared a proclaimed offender in both cases.

Ahead of his arrival, the Islamabad High Court restrained both the FIA and NAB from arresting him.

The FIA, this January, cited a lack of proof and cleared him in the sugar mills case.

Meanwhile, the FIA has submitted the answers to the 27 questions related to the case in the court.

The judge, Bakht Fakhar Behzad, inquired regarding those involved in the inquiry of the money laundering case. FIA's lawyer told the court that the inquiry was conducted by a joint investigation team headed by the late FIA official Dr Muhammad Rizwan.

When the judge questioned whether the FIA had recorded the statement of any witness during the entire investigation, the agency's investigating officer remained silent.

After the court asked if any action was taken against those who kept changing their statements during the course of the inquiry, the FIA official replied in the negative.

Proceeding further, the judge asked if there was any proof in FIA's seven-volume evidence. "Tell me straight away, don't makeup stories, I have read it all. I will send all the FIA people to jail now, remember this. I want an answer, what proof of crime was there with the challan?"

Suleman's counsel maintained that the case is baseless and he had spoken against it. The court then asked, under whose pressure the case was filed.

The prosecutor said that there was no direct evidence and Suleman Shehbaz was declared accused in the light of the form used to open the account.

The FIA official was questioned by the court about possessing the authority to investigate the case. He responded by saying that the inquiry was conducted under the money laundering act.

The court asked him whether any institution made any complaints to him regarding remittances. The prosecutor said the FIA has powers to investigate money laundering.

The former FIA officer said that the agency took action in light of the sugar inquiry commission.

When the court asked about the number of sugar mills involved in the case, the ex-FIA officer said that an inquiry was made against all the sugar mills in Pakistan. He added that the former federal government had asked for action against the sugar mills of Jahangir Tareen, Khusro family and Sharif family.

The court then asked what action was taken against the Khusro family and Jahangir Tareen. The former FIA officer said he was not the investigator of these cases, so couldn't tell.

Later, the court acquitted all the accused, including Suleman in the money laundering case.

Speaking to the media outside the court, the premier's son said that the case continued for seven years. "Thanks be to Allah that the facts came before the people, today by the grace of Allah we have been exonerated."

NCA clean chit

Earlier in September 2021, the premier’s son got clean chit from United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) along with his father after a through money-laundering investigation by the UK authorities on the request of then Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government.

In giving a clean chit to PM Shehbaz in September 2021, the UK NCA also cleared Suleman who was the focus of money-laundering probe along with his father and their family friend and British-Pakistani millionaire businessman Zulfikar Ahmed.

The NCA - acting on the information provided by Assets Recovery Unit (ARU), FIA, NAB and lobbying by the PTI government as well as Daily Mail’s article - had investigated Shehbaz Shairf and his son Suleman for amassing assets through offshore accounts and conducted inquiries in Switzerland, Italy, America and Dubai to determine if Zulfikar Ahmed was holding Sharifs’ money in offshore accounts through complex offshore structures, according to court papers released by the Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

Accounts and assets of the three accused were frozen by the NCA during the investigation.

The NCA investigated Shehbaz Sharif and Suleman Sharif going back to 2006 and investigated Shehbaz Sharif’s assets and his dealings with PTI UK leader Aneel Musarrat as well as financial dealings of Suleman and Shehbaz with Zulfikar Ahmed, who had made transactions with Suleman Sharif.

After investigation of over two years, the NCA dropped the case and unfreeze all assets of Sharifs, after failing to prove that the cash and assets were proceeds of criminal money-laundering – giving a clean chit to Suleman and Shehbaz Sharif as well as Zulfikar Ahmed.

The UK money-laundering investigation ended while Shehbaz Sharif’s defamation case was still on going at the UK High Court against the publishers of Daily Mail newspaper over David Rose’s article on July 14 2019 in Mail Online and Mail on Sunday titled “Did the family of Pakistani politician who has become the poster boy for British overseas aid STEAL funds meant for earthquake victims”.

After the NCA exonerated Sharifs, Daily Mail last year apologised to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif over allegations of money-laundering and deleted the defamatory article.

— With additional input by Murtaza Ali Shah