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June 16, 2019

Approver’s statement in cases against Sharifs


June 16, 2019

LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau Lahore on Saturday faced an embarrassing situation when a judicial magistrate refused to record the confessional statement of an approver in money laundering cases against PML-N leader Hamza Shahbaz and his brother Suleman Shahbaz as NAB officials insisted to stay in the courtroom in violation of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

The NAB officials produced the alleged front man of Shahbaz family, Mushtaq alias Cheeni, said to be the manager of Ramzan Sugar Mills, before Duty Magistrate Ahmad Waqas as relevant Magistrate Amir Raza Betu was on leave.

The NAB prosecutor informed the court that the accused was presented before the chairman NAB in Islamabad, who allowed his application to become an approver in the case. He asked the magistrate to record the confessional statement of the accused under Section 164 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

The judge, after hearing the plea of the NAB officials, asked them to leave the courtroom as it is a requirement of 164 CrPC that the statement of an accused as approver cannot be recorded in the presence of investigators.

The NAB officials insisted to stay in the courtroom. The judge, after seeing the behaviour of the NAB officials, refused to record the statement of Mushatq Cheeni after which the bureau officials took the suspect back without recording of his statement.

Earlier, an accountability court had granted transit remand of the accused to the NAB for his appearance before the chairman. It has learnt that the chairman NAB has approved application of Cheeni to become an approver against the Shahbaz family after which he was presented before the court. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had offloaded Mushtaq Cheeni from a Dubai-bound flight on April 8, after which he was handed over to the NAB. He was put on the ECL on the request of the NAB.

As per NAB claims, Cheeni used to transfer foreign remittances in the bank accounts of Shahbaz Sharif’s sons Hamza and Suleman. The accused transferred over Rs 500 million to Hamza and Suleman through his five bank accounts, the NAB added.

After the arrest of different alleged front men of the Shahbaz family, who were assisting the family in alleged money laundering, the NAB had arrested Hamza Shahbaz. Suleman Shahbaz had left the country after the NAB started probe in money laundering allegations and never returned.

The bureau alleged that Hamza maintained various accounts in different banks in which credit turnover of Rs500 million was observed during the years 2006 to 2017.

It claimed that Hamza received fictitious foreign remittances of Rs 181 million in one of his bank accounts, Rs 2.11 billion in the accounts of his brother Suleman, mother Nusrat, Benamidars and employees of their companies.

The NAB claims that as per a report of the Financial Monitoring Unit of the State Bank of Pakistan, a huge volume of suspicious transactions in the bank accounts of Hamza and Suleman were found, following which a money laundering investigation was started against him.

Hamza had total assets of Rs 18 million in the year 2003, which increased to Rs 411.630 million in the year 2017.

Hamza claimed foreign remittances of Rs 181 million as sources of funds for the increase in his assets. However, during the course of investigations, the foreign remittances were found fictitious, the NAB added. Hamza, along with his other family members, established 12 industrial units and funds received through fictitious foreign remittances were injected as equity or director’s loan to the tune of Rs 244 million.

Out of the income claimed as capital gain, gifts and salary from companies established with the proceeds of fictitious foreign remittances, the accused acquired different assets in the form of agricultural, residential and commercial lands worth 167 million.

Moreover, Hamza's assets increased beyond his known means of income from 2003 till 2017. Hamza is also accused of causing a loss of over Rs 210 million to the national kitty in the Ramzan Sugar Mills case.

The NAB Lahore spokesperson Zeeshan Anwer refused to comment on the episode which happened in the court of judicial magistrate.

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