Sugar mill reference sent back to NAB

Father-son duo Shehbaz, Hamza also file plea in money laundering case


Our Correspondent September 08, 2022
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Punjab CM Hamza Shehbaz. PHOTO: FILE

LAHORE:

In a major relief to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza, an accountability court in Lahore on Wednesday sent back the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) Ramzan Sugar Mills reference against them back to the anti-graft body.

Judge Sajid Awan, who heard the case, noted that the matter no longer fell under the domain of his court after the amendments to the accountability law.
Separately, the father and son duo filed acquittal pleas in the Rs16 billion money laundering case against them.

The special court of Lahore had summoned them to frame charges against them on Wednesday.

PM Shehbaz’s lawyer Amjad Pervez requested on his client’s behalf a one-day exemption from appearance citing his busy schedule in Islamabad because of flood-related activities.

However, Hamza appeared before the court.

While accepting the request for the premier's absence, the judge inquired: “Can’t he [PM Shehbaz] appear in the court for 10 minutes? This case has been scheduled after a month. It is not ongoing on a daily basis.”

The court accepted PM Shehbaz's request to excuse his appearance.
In their separate pleas, the prime minister and Hamza have stated that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had created the case for political revenge.

Thus, the case should be dismissed.

The lawyers representing the two petitioners argued that their clients' company accounts had been frozen on the order of the court.

They further requested the court to pass an order to unfreeze them.
To this the FIA’s lawyer stated that the agency had no objection to unfreezing the accounts of the company.

The court directed the FIA to respond to the acquittal pleas by September 17.

Earlier this year, a key witness of the money laundering case, popularly referred to as Maqsood Chaprasi, had passed away because of a cardiac arrest.

Maqsood was living abroad and was made party to the case after money was allegedly found to have been transferred into his account during an investigation into claims of money laundering by the Sharif family.

The FIA had registered a case against the premier, and his sons Hamza and Suleman Shehbaz in November 2020 under sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 34 and 109 of prevention of corruption act and read with 3/4 of the anti-money laundering act.

“The investigation team has detected 28 benami accounts of the Shehbaz family through which money laundering of Rs16.3 billion was committed during 2008-18. The FIA examined the money trail of 17,000 credit transactions,” according to an FIA report submitted to the court.

The report had added that the amount was kept in “hidden accounts” and given to Shehbaz in a personal capacity.

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