LAHORE: Categorically rejecting the allegations of money laundering, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Saturday apprised the court that he had never received his salary, TA and DA from the national kitty, which is around Rs70 to Rs80 million, and asked if he would launder just Rs2.5 million.
The prime minister made the arguments as the special court (Central-I) resumed hearing of a Rs16 billion money laundering case against PM Shehbaz Sharif, his son Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz and others.
Strict security measures were put in place and the court’s premises were evacuated before PM Shahbaz Sharif and Punjab CM Hamza Shahbaz’s arrival.
During the course of the proceedings, PM Shahbaz Sharif said, "In this case, I am accused of laundering Rs2.5 million." The premier said his family suffered Rs2 billion but he did not give subsidies to favour the sugar mills. Later, he and CM Hamza Shahbaz left the courtroom after being granted permission by the judge.
At the outset of today’s hearing, Amjad Pervaiz, counsel for PM Shahbaz Sharif, argued that the Rs16 billion money laundering case was "politically motivated" and "based on mala fide intentions" because the PTI government wanted to imprison his client.
During the last hearing on May 21, the special court issued an arrest warrant for Suleman Shehbaz, the son of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. It also gave Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz until May 28 to pay their interim bail.
Amjad Pervaiz argued that the prime minister has nothing to do with the accounts opened or closed in the past 10 years.
However, the burden of proof in the case lies with the prosecution, argued Amjad Pervaiz.
He maintained that the PTI-led government’s focus was on imprisoning Shehbaz Sharif and that this [money laundering] case is mala fide because it is politically motivated. "The facts in the challan submitted by the FIA were incorrect."
Referring to the law, the counsel said if there are 10 cases against anyeone, then he/she will not be arrested separately in each case.
"The [previous] government knew that this case could not be proved in court," the lawyer said, adding that the courts issued their verdicts in favour of his client.
At the outset of today’s hearing, a report about the arrest of co-accused in the case, Suleman Shehbaz, Tahir Naqvi, Malik Maqsood and Ghulam Shabbar was presented before the court.
"Conflicting reports have been received about the arrest of the suspect in the case", observed Special Court (Central-I) Judge Ijaz Hassan Awan.
The judge remarked that "the report states that Model Town address 41D does not exist," adding that it was also written that the suspect, Suleman Shehbaz, is out of the country.
At this, FIA prosecutor Farooq Bajwa said that it was a mistake. The author wanted to write that the suspect was not present at the address.
"Where is the investigation officer who prepared this report," asked the judge.
The prosecutor asked the court for permission to send in a new report about this.
Pointing out the flaws in the report, the judge noted it is said in the report that co-accused, Ghulam Shabbar, has died, while at the same time it is also said that he was interrogated.
The judge noted that a challan had been submitted about a person who had died, and directed the officer to submit a new challan after removing all the bits related to Ghulam Shabbar.
At this point, the FIA official told the court that the suspect's death certificate was a year old and the inquiry had started prior to his death.
Bajwa said he would submit a detailed response on this.
In December 2021, the FIA had submitted the challan against Shehbaz and Hamza before the special court for their alleged involvement in laundering an amount of Rs16 billion in the sugar scam case.
According to the FIA report submitted to the court, the investigation team has "detected 28 benami accounts of the Shehbaz family through which money laundering of Rs16.3bn was committed during 2008-18. The FIA examined the money trail of 17,000 credit transactions."
The report added that the amount was kept in "hidden accounts" and given to Shehbaz in a personal capacity.
This amount (Rs16 billion) has nothing to do with the sugar business (of Shehbaz family), it claimed. The money received from the accounts of low-wage employees by Shehbaz was transferred outside Pakistan via hundi/hawala networks, ultimately destined for the beneficial use of his family members, the FIA had alleged.
"Eleven low-paid employees of the Sharif group who 'held and possessed' the laundered proceeds on behalf of the principal accused, are found guilty of facilitating money laundering. The three other co-accused of the Sharif group also actively facilitated the money laundering," the agency had said.
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