PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday claimed that the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU), headed by the prime minister's aide on accountability, Mirza Shahzad Akbar, approached the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) to open an inquiry against him and his son Suleman – maintaining that the fact that the agency could not find any evidence against them of money laundering meant that it was the PTI government’s attempt to “politically victimise” him.
Addressing a news conference in Lahore, the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly presented “evidence” of his innocence in the money laundering case in the UK in a bid to refute the claims made by the government.
“The decision of the NCA to unilaterally approach the court to unfreeze our accounts proves that they have absolved us of all the charges levelled by the government, through the ARU, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), of money laundering, receiving kickbacks and involvement in corruption,” he added.
The PML-N president showed documents that mentioned his name in contrast to what was being claimed by the government.
In a reference to the acquittal of his son Suleman Shehbaz, he said it was strange of the government to say that the son was acquitted of money laundering charges but the father was not.
The former Punjab chief minister claimed that the British government itself had stated that it had found no evidence of corruption against him. “The NCA report is proof of my innocence.”
Shehbaz said the government had failed to prove even a single accusation against him.
“Since coming to power, the PTI government has maligned the Sharif family, but none of the allegations was found to be true.”
He added that NAB had failed to find evidence of corruption against him in the Multan metro case and the Lahore High Court had even called him a "decent person" in its ruling.
The PML-N president said Prime Minister Imran Khan was "deceiving the nation" on the Sharif family. “He [PM Imran would send me to jail immediately if he could have his way.”
He further claimed that the prime minister brought him up in meetings with everyone.
The PML-N chief took a jibe at the PM, saying the premier even “dreamt about Shehbaz Sharif”.
The reason stated by NCA as grounds of investigation included the correspondence it had with NAB and with FIA.
Shehbaz said in the document stating grounds of investigation, it was clearly stated in article 4 that this application was in the respect of funds held in the name of, or associated to Suleman Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif.
“On another page, it reads of my age, and that of my elder brother and extended family. While para 16 reads that on the December 11, 2019, the NCA received a letter from the ARU.”
The ARU was created by PM Imran to assist in recovery of the criminal assets in Pakistan. The PML-N chief said it was ARU sending the letter, not the NCA asking for it.
He said the document further read Shehbaz was currently under investigation by NAB Pakistan’s autonomous Federal Anti-Corruption Agency and was granted bail by the accountability court in 2019.
He said para 18 details that the alleged criminality was that of misuse of authority and money laundering. It also read of the Ashiana housing scheme and Ramzan Sugar Mills.
Shhebaz said in para 28, the document talks of a meeting with the operation manager of the NCA and NAB Lahore Director General of Shahzad Saleem. In the meeting Saleem gave details of the investigation into Shehhbaz and his family, claiming that allegations of corruption, bribery and money laundering had been persistent throughout their political prominence in the country.
Saleem in Para 30, Shehbaz said, was also quoted as offering assistance in any subsequent inquiry.
He said that the letter from the ARU was sent on December 11, 2019 while the meeting by NAB Lahore DG was held on December 9, 2019.
A day after a London court ruling reportedly ordered the UK authorities to unfreeze accounts of the PML-N leaders, PM’s Adviser Akbar had said the impression of Shehbaz and his son Suleman's “acquittal” by a UK court in the money laundering case was “wrong”.
The adviser had said the investigation by the NCA against Suleman and some of his family members was not initiated at the request of the ARU or NAB. “However, the NCA had contacted Pakistan in connection with the two suspicious transactions,” he added.
Akbar had said the two-page verdict of the UK court was issued on September 10 and Shehbaz’s name was not even mentioned once in the whole order.
Meanwhile, NAB, in a statement, maintained that its investigations had concluded that the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, was the principal beneficiary of the money laundering committed in the name of his family members and associates.
According to the investigations, Shehbaz was also the principal beneficiary of the money laundering activities by way of spending and acquisition of properties through money derived from fictitious IDs.
The Rs7.32 billion reference filed against the opposition leader and his family has provided clear evidence that the Sharif family had arranged inward FTTs (remittances) through hundi-hawala dealers based in Lahore, the UK, the UAE by using fictitious identities of mostly their lower ranking persons.
Some of the remitters had already requested NAB to take action against those who misused their identity for financial fraud. The remitters were shown as business partners/ friends of the Sharif family while the remittances were shown as foreign investments in the Banks' Declaration Forms.
(With additional input from APP)
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