Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice-President Hamza Shehbaz has been arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) after his attorney withdrew his client’s bail plea.
While appearing before a two-member Lahore High Court bench – headed by Justice Mazahir Ali Naqvi – Hamza’s lawyer withdrew a bail application of his client in two corruption references.
Hamza Shehbaz, who is also the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly, has been under NAB investigation in cases involving Ramzan Sugar Mills, Saaf Paani project and assets beyond known means of income.
A large number of PML-N workers blocked Mall Road and protested against Hamza’s arrest. A scuffle between police and PML-N supporters also broke out outside the court.
Background of NAB case against Hamza
NAB claims to have found evidence of money laundering on a massive scale through which Hamza and his family allegedly accumulated assets in the United Kingdom.
According to sources privy to NAB’s investigation, the allegedly illegally accumulated assets are worth Rs85 billion to Rs100 billion and were bought during Shehbaz Sharif’s tenure as the chief minister of Punjab.
NAB claims to have found that Hamza’s declared assets in 2003 were worth less than Rs20 million, which increased by almost 2,000% to over Rs410 million after his father became the chief minister.
Similarly, his younger brother Suleman Shehbaz’s personal wealth increased by 8,500 times and he now owns assets worth more than Rs3 billion.
The investigation started when NAB discovered “the huge volume of suspicious cash transactions” in the bank accounts of Shehbaz, Hamza, Suleman and other family members.
The Financial Monitoring Unit of NAB forwarded an application to the bureau’s chairman on January 12, 2018 to investigate the transactions.
An inquiry was allowed in October 2018 and later its status was turned into an investigation.
On April 3 this year, NAB arrested two suspects, Qasim Qayyum and Fazal Dad Abbasi, after founding evidence against them of their involvement in money laundering and other corrupt practices.
During the course of investigation, it was found that Qayyum was running an illegal foreign exchange business at Sadiq Plaza on Mall Road and Ali Tower MM Alam Road between 2005 and 2018.
He collected cash from Suleman’s office in Model Town, Lahore. He then arranged fictitious foreign remittances to the bank accounts of Shehbaz, Hamza, Suleman and other members of the family. He used the identity cards of his employees or others, showing them as the source of these remittances.