Shehbaz, Hamza indicted in money laundering case

PML-N leaders plead not guilty; accountability court summons three prosecution witnesses on November 26


Our Correspondent November 11, 2020

LAHORE:

An accountability court on Wednesday indicted PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, his son Hamza Shehbaz and other accused in a money laundering and asset beyond means case. All the accused pleaded not guilty.

When Lahore Accountability Court Judge Jawadul Hassan started hearing of the case, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) – the prosecution in the case – requested him to begin the indictment.

Shehbaz, who was present in the courtroom, asked the judge not to start the process. The court, however, turned down his request and read the charge-sheet.

The PML-N president pleaded not guilty and said he is the leader of opposition in the National Assembly and the top anti-graft watchdog has leveled false allegations against him.

“I am being subjected to victimization. I am head of a political party [PML-N] and my political opponents are conspiring against me. All the cases in which I have been indicted are baseless. I reject all the allegations of NAB,” he added.

Shehbaz reiterated that during his tenure as Punjab chief minister he built the province and saved billions of rupees through effective management.

When the court asked Hamza Shehbaz as to what he said about the allegations he said he is the leader of opposition in the Punjab Assembly and that NAB cases against him are based on ill-intention. “All allegations leveled are baseless. I reject them. I am innocent and I will prove my innocence,” he said.

The accountability court later summoned all the three NAB witnesses including Faisal Bilal at the next hearing which is scheduled for November 26.

Earlier, the father-son duo was brought to the court in armoured vehicles amid heightened security.  A large number of PML-N workers were present on the occasion to greet the incarcerated leaders.

However, things took a sour turn when some party supporters tried to board the vehicle carrying Shehbaz, resulting in their scuffle with the riot police.

NAB claims that Shehbaz and his family laundered billions of rupees from various anonymous accounts through front-men, employees and money changers. It claimed that Shehbaz’s assets in 1990 were worth Rs2.1 million, whereas his assets and those of his children were worth Rs18 million in 1998.

However, according to NAB, the assets of the Shehbaz family later multiplied phenomenally and Shehbaz and his sons set up nine business units from 2008 to 2018.

According to NAB, it had filed this reference on basis of an inquiry launched against Shehbaz after the State Bank of Pakistan’s Financial Monitoring Unit detected some shady bank transactions.

On November 8, one of the approvers against the Shehbaz family claimed that he carried out 24 money laundering transactions for the family between 2008 and 2009.

In a statement, the approver Shahid Rafiq said one of the accused in the case Qasim Qayyum used to look after the foreign remittances of Shehbaz’s family in 2008.

He had claimed that the money was sent from abroad through telegraphic transfers (TT) in the name of Qasim Qayyum’s employees. These TTs were received by MS Usman International Money Exchange.

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