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April 26, 2019

LHC extends Hamza’s interim bail till May 8

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April 26, 2019

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday extended the interim pre-arrest bail of Opposition Leader in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz till May 8 in three cases being probed by the National Accountability Bureau Saaf Paani project, Ramzan Sugar Mills and assets beyond means.

Hamza along with his lawyers appeared in the hearing amid tight security arrangement made in and around the high court. A two-member bench headed by Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmed Khan heard the bail petitions of Hamza. He showed annoyance over presence of irrelevant persons inside the courtroom and ordered their ouster before the start of proceedings. Justice Mirza Viqas Rauf was the other member of the bench.

Three lawyers, Amjad Pervaiz, Salman Butt and Azam Nazir Tarar, represented the petitioner before the court in the three cases. Advocate Salman Butt was representing Hamza Shahbaz in assets beyond means case. Hamza’ lawyer pointed out that he was unable to plead the case unless documents being relied upon by the NAB are provided to him. He apprised the court that the documents which were considered part of the reference were not attached in the assets beyond income case. He added the case cannot be proceeded without completion of documents.

Justice Khan asked the NAB prosecutor to inform the court regarding availability of documents in the references. The NAB prosecutor argued that the anti-corruption watchdog will have to investigate offshore companies and foreign transactions of Hamza Shahbaz. The investigators were tracing out persons and other sources which were used to transact money from a foreign country, the official said.

“The court had directed to inform Hamza, 10 days prior to his arrest while the statement is still due to be recorded regarding the documents.” Butt said: “The petitioner was not apprised for reasons behind his arrest in the assets case and related documents should be provided to him which were used to initiate an inquiry against his client.”

“How can we challenge the case in a court if we are not being given documents. The material, which is being used against an accused, cannot be hidden from the person,” said Butt. Challenging the NAB’s power to probe money laundering cases, the lawyer said if it is a case of money laundering, the NAB is not authorized to arrest his client without seeking permission from a magisterial court.

The NAB could hold inquiry only. A financial monitoring unit had got the authority to probe money laundering cases and the sessions court was the legal forum to hold trial under such charges,” he added.

The NAB prosecutor said complaints were emerged against Shahbaz Sharif, Hamza Shahbaz and Salman Shahbaz. The Financial Monitoring Unit has also spotted suspicious transactions but its report is secret which cannot be provided.

The court inquired of the NAB prosecutor whether contents of the report be included as part of the case. To this, the official answered that the facts will transpire after the investigation. The LHC judge remarked that the institution should make it clear whether the report will be used as evidence in the case or not.

The official affirmed that the probe will be conducted on the basis of the report. He said he would have to seek instructions whether the secret documents could be provided to the petitioner.

After hearing the arguments, the high court extended the interim bail of Hamza Shahbaz till May 8 and directed the NAB prosecutor to seek instructions regarding secret documents. Earlier, tight security arrangements were made upon the arrival of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader at the Lahore High Court (LHC) as heavy contingents of police were deployed on the court premises. Special passes were issued to lawyers and media persons for the hearing.

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