The United Kingdom's National Crime Agency (NCA) on Monday submitted its investigation report at the Westminster Magistrate Court, requesting it to set aside the accounts freezing orders for PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif and his son Suleman.
The accounts were frozen in December 2019 at the joint request of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) led by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar.
The ARU, in a letter written to the NCA UK on December 11, 2019, had leveled serious corruption allegations against Shehbaz and Suleman.
NAB and the ARU alleged that the former Punjab chief minister and his son were involved in double criminality and money laundering of above Rs35 billion.
Double criminality means creating assets through fraud and money laundering, and moving them out of the country and bringing the ill-gotten wealth back to the same country.
Allegations of fraud, criminal conduct and money laundering were placed and consequently five accounts were frozen by the NCA in December 2019.
The crime agency probed five accounts for around two years through its International Command Unit (ICU). The ICU investigated the accounts and transactions in the UK, Dubai and Pakistan.
On their report filed before the Westminster Magistrate Court, the NCA acknowledged that it could not find any proof of criminal conduct, requesting to set aside the accounts freezing orders which were conceded by the court.
A separate civil case is still in process in which David Rose, a Daily Mail journalist had alleged that money laundering was carried out by Shehbaz by misusing the funds provided by the Department for International Development (DFID), UK for the 2005 earthquake victims.
Meanwhile, Shahzad Akbar refuted reports of “acquittal” of Shehbaz and Suleman in the money laundering case from the London court.
In a series of messages from his Twitter handle, Akbar said the report about the alleged acquittal of Shehbaz and his son was incorrect.
I bow my head before Allah in all humility & with feelings of profound gratitude. Today's decision by UK court is not just my or Nawaz Sharif's vindication but that of Pakistan too. Certainly truth has greater power than all the lies, fabricated stories & character assassination!— Shehbaz Sharif (@CMShehbaz) September 27, 2021
“The investigation by the NCA against Suleman Shahbaz and some of his family members was not initiated at the request of [Asset Recovery Unit] ARU or NAB,” he said adding that it was the result of a suspicious transaction reported by a bank to the NCA.
He maintained that funds were transferred by Suleman from Pakistan to UK in 2019 which were declared suspicious by the UK authorities. He said the NCA secured an asset freezing order from the court against these funds.
However, he said that recently NCA decided to stop investigating these funds and therefore agreed to release these funds through the court.
Akbar further clarified that such a release order was not an acknowledgment that funds were from a legitimate source.
It is clarified that there is no acquittal of any sort as reported as there was no trial! funds were frozen by NCA and NCA has decided to not investigate these funds anymore.— Mirza Shahzad Akbar (@ShazadAkbar) September 27, 2021
Suleiman Shabaz remains a fugitive in a money laundering case against him and his father before AC LHR
“There is no acquittal of any sort as reported as there was no trial! Funds were frozen by [the] NCA and NCA has decided to not investigate these funds anymore,” he said adding that Suleman remains a fugitive in a money laundering case against him and his father before the accountability court in Lahore.
Responding to Akbar, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb maintained that a “UK court had acquitted Shehbaz and his family from the ‘baseless’ allegations of money laundering and corruption leveled by [PM] Imran Khan”.
With input from APP
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