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August 7, 2020

Shahbaz, Hamza indicted in Ramzan Sugar Mills case

Top Story

August 7, 2020

LAHORE: An accountability court Thursday framed charges against Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) President Shahbaz Sharif and his son, Hamza Shahbaz, in Ramzan Sugar Mills supplementary reference.

On April 9, 2019, father-son duo was indicted in the main reference. Later, in November 2019, NAB filed a supplementary reference against them in the same case. However, indictment had been pending due to different reasons.

The duo appeared before Accountability Court Judge Amjad Nazir Chaudhry on Thursday amid tight security. Hamza was produced before the court from jail as he is on judicial remand in an investigation against him regarding alleged money laundering and amassment of assets beyond means.

As the hearing commenced, the NAB prosecutor read out the charge-sheet against the accused, after which the court asked Shahbaz and Hamza whether they accept the charges. Both pleaded not guilty.

Advocate Amjad Parvez, counsel for Shahbaz Sharif, implored the court to delay the indictment saying that his client had to attend the joint session of the parliament as the opposition leader. He stated that he want to argue the matter before indictment.

The judge replied that he could argue after the indictment. The counsel said that after indictment of his client, his right to move an acquittal application should not be revoked.

The judge assured the counsel that all legal rights of the accused would remain intact after the indictment. The judge remarked that Shahbaz, after signing the indictment documents, could leave and his counsel could argue the matter.

Amjad also argued that in the absence of other accused in the case, indictment could not take place. The NAB prosecutor replied that according to the NAB Ordinance, the presence of other accused was not mandatory for indictment of the accused present in the court.

Meanwhile, Shahbaz intervened in his typical style saying that he saved 100 billion [rupees] in the Orange Line train project. “Is it possible for me to show such madness of embezzling pennies while I am saving billions of people’s money,” Shahbaz added.

Shahbaz claimed that he might have sinned, but he never left any stone unturned for betterment of people of the country. “The prosecution may go in its own way, but I have served people of Punjab for 10 years,” Shahbaz said. “I made official visits for the welfare of people, but never took allowances or even petrol for my car,” the PML-N president claimed.

Shahbaz further said that he had launched projects worth trillions of rupees for the development and welfare of the people and had brought in trillions of rupees investment for the economic stability of the country. However, the court, after hearing all parties, indicted Shahbaz and Hamza in the supplementary reference. The court adjourned the hearing for Aug 27, directing the prosecution to present its witnesses.

In the reference, NAB blamed Hamza Shahbaz, the chief executive of the Ramzan Sugar Mills, for getting constructed a drain, facilitating his mill with the public money in Chiniot. The then chief minister, Shahbaz Sharif, allegedly approved Rs210 million for the drain construction.

APP adds: The accountability court judge questioned Shahbaz’s counsel that how the present indictment proceedings could baseless when no objection was raised on indictment of his client in the main reference.

Amjad Parvez contended that the allegation of construction of a drain for Ramzan Sugar Mills was baseless. He submitted that the construction of the drain was approved by the cabinet and provincial assembly.

The NAB prosecutor stated that Hamza Shahbaz was chief executive officer of the mill, and he had made the then MPA Maulana Rehmatullah move an application for construction of the drain, thus causing a loss to the national exchequer. He submitted that the government agencies used the public funds to appease Shahbaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz. He submitted that the law did not allow the public representatives to exceed their jurisdiction.