Pak’s anti-graft body gives clean chit to PM Shehbaz Sharif & son in money laundering case

Islamabad: In a major relief for Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza, the National Accountability Bureau has declared the father-son duo were “innocent” in a money laundering case after it conducted a re-investigation, a media report said on Wednesday.

The case was filed by the anti-corruption agency in 2020, which alleged that Shehbaz and his family members were involved in money laundering and illegal transfer of funds through fake accounts.

The supplementary report was submitted to the accountability court and presented during the hearing conducted by Accountability Court judge Qamar-ul-Zaman, Samaa TV reported on its website.

The special court judge had reserved the decision after hearing detailed arguments on acquittal application of both the accused persons. However, after acquitting the aforesaid, the court summoned the rest of accused for framing of charges in the case.

The premier and his son did not appear before the court. Their lawyer, Amjad Pervaiz, filed a request for exemption from appearance as the prime minister was busy with official engagements and Hamza was unwell.

PM Shehbaz took to Twitter to express his delight over the court verdict. “Despite the worst practices, use of state force and holding institutions hostage, we stand before the court, the law and the people vindicated,” he added.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA)’s arguments revolved around expelling the impression that there is not even a single direct allegation upon Prime Minister Shehbaz and his son Hamza which could establish their guilt in the case.

FIA’s prosecutor through his arguments had given clean chit to the PM and his son arguing that the record shows that neither the amounts had ever been deposited nor withdrawn directly from PM Shehbaz and Hamza’s bank accounts. On judge’s queries regarding evidences of the transaction of the amounts if made on their directions, the FIA’s stance was that there is no evidence which could establish it.

Earlier, the PM’s counsel advocate Amjad Pervez had completed his arguments on PM’s acquittal application contending that FIA had removed allegation of Rs9 billion from the challan. The accounts belonged to another accused Mushtaq Cheeni and the FIA had not initiated investigation against him, he maintained.

“Those false tales of the kickbacks mentioned in the FIR had not been made part of challan,” he further told the court. On a point, he termed the tales of kickbacks as tales of what he called “Alif Laila”. It seems that this case had been woven inspiring the movie “Money Heist”, he further told the court.

FIA’s case: The Federal Investigation Agency had registered the case against Shehbaz Sharif and his sons Hamza Shehbaz Sharif (former chief minister Punjab) and Suleman Shehbaz in November 2020 under sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 34 and 109 of Prevention of Corruption Act and r/w 3/4 of Anti Money Laundering Act.

Challan: It is pertinent to mention that the FIA in December 2021 had submitted the challan against Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz over their alleged involvement in Rs16 billion money laundering case.

The FIA’s report released 28 benami accounts of the Shehbaz family which were detected by the investigation team through which money laundering of Rs16.3 billion was allegedly committed during 2008-18. The FIA examined the money trail of 17,000 credit transactions. The report added up that the amount was kept in hidden accounts and given to Shehbaz in a personal capacity.

The FIA alleged that the money received from the accounts of low-wage employees by Shehbaz Sharif had been transferred outside Pakistan through hundi giving benefits to his family. Eleven low-paid employees of the Sharif family were found guilty of facilitating money laundering.