Rs16bn money laundering case: FIA seeks permission to arrest PM, Punjab CM

Shahid Hussain
Sunday, Jun 05, 2022

LAHORE: A special court in Lahore extended on Saturday the interim bail of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz till June 11 in the Rs16 billion money laundering case filed against them by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

However, the presiding judge of the Special Court (Central-I), Ijaz Hassan Awan, issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Suleman Shahbaz and two others in the case, as they were not present. The hearing was subsequently adjourned till June 11.

At the outset of the hearing on Saturday, the FIA told the court that the agency wanted to arrest PM Shehbaz and CM Hamza. The FIA’s lawyer argued that the duo was “not part of the investigation”; however, Hamza’s counsel rejected the claims, accusing the agency of misleading the court as the "two had been a part of the investigations".

In his arguments, the counsel for Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz, Mohammad Amjad Pervaiz, said that an investigation has been going on for the last one-and-a-half years and the FIA has been unable to produce any evidence against his clients. As Amjad Pervaiz started presenting his arguments for the confirmation of bail in the money laundering case, both the PMLN leaders left the court. The counsel highlighted that the FIA interrogated the father-son duo when both of them were in jail.

The judge ordered all other stakeholders to present their arguments at the next hearing, directing the FIA to present a report on the non-bailable warrants against Suleman Shahbaz, Tahir Naqvi and Malik Maqsood.

On the other hand, during the hearing in Ramzan Sugar Mills and Ashiyana Housing cases, filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in an accountability court, PM Shehbaz requested the judge to present arguments himself and sought time for it.

During the hearing, prosecutor Asadullah Malik produced witnesses who presented records related to the corruption cases while SSP Legal Lahore Police sought more time from the court to present complete records. After hearing all the arguments, the hearing was adjourned till June 20. It is worth mentioning that Shehbaz has already been indicted in the Ashiyana Housing Reference.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 the 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.