LAHORE: Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz was granted bail by the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday, 20 months after the lawmaker was arrested in an assets-beyond-means and money-laundering case.
A two-member bench, headed by Justice Sardar Muhammad Sarfraz Dogar, directed Hamza to submit two surety bonds of Rs10 million each to avail relief while hearing a post-arrest petition filed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader.
During the proceedings, National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) prosecutor Faisal Bukhari resumed his arguments and stated that Hamza Shahbaz possessed assets of “a few lakh rupees in 2003” whereas his assets reached “Rs537 million in 2018”, in addition to alleged illegal transactions of millions of rupees in his accounts.
The prosecutor said the bureau launched investigations into the matter during the PML-N government’s tenure and notices were served to Hamza, but he did not provide any reply about the amount.
He said after the completion of the investigations, the reference was filed in 2020. He added that 20 people were nominated as accused in the reference, whereas six had absconded proceedings and four became approvers. The prosecutor said the trial court indicted the accused on November 11, 2020, and the trial was still in process. He said Hamza Shahbaz received telegraphic transfers (TTs) of “Rs81 million from abroad but he failed to provide any details about the source”. At this stage, the NAB prosecutor produced a chart about the alleged money laundering and claimed that a “money laundering network” was being run from the Model Town office.
He said the TTs were made on the names of Nusrat Shahbaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Javeria Ali, Rabia Imran and Salman Shahbaz. He said after receiving the TTs, Hamza and Salman made investments at various places.
He added that that Mushtaq Chini transferred “fake loans of millions of rupees” in Hamza’s accounts, whereas amounts were also transferred from fake accounts of “milk sellers and others”. He said Hamza was a “beneficiary of money laundering”, adding that merits were also considered in such cases besides hardship.
He said the counsel for Hamza obtained three adjournments in the trial and it would definitely result in the delay of the trial, whereas the bureau had not sought a single adjournment yet.
While concluding his arguments, the prosecutor pleaded with the bench to dismiss Hamza’s bail petition, adding that the LHC had previously dismissed his post-arrest bail in the case.
The bench, on conclusion of arguments by the parties, granted post-arrest bail to Hamza Shahbaz and directed him to submit two surety bonds of Rs10 million each for the purpose.
Hamza Shahbaz’s counsel had completed his arguments a day ago. He submitted that the conclusion of the trial was not within sight in the near future, hence, his client was entitled to relief of bail on a hardship basis.
Hamza was arrested on June 11, 2019 in connection with assets-beyond-means and money laundering case. He had also previously approached the LHC for bail but the plea was dismissed on February 11, 2020.
The Supreme Court had also dismissed Hamza Shahbaz’s bail plea for not being pressed on January 22, 2021. Besides Hamza Shahbaz, Shahbaz Sharif, Javeria Ali, Fazl Dad Abbasi, Rashid Karamat, Muhammad Usman, Masroor Anwar, Nisar Ahmad, Shoaib Qamar, and Qasim Qayyum had been indicted by the trial court in the case.
However, Salman Shahbaz, Nusrat Shahbaz, Rabia Imran, Syed Muhammad Tahir Naqvi, Haroon Yousaf Zai and another could not be indicted due to their absence.
In a reference comprising 55 volumes, the bureau had alleged that Shahbaz Sharif family committed money laundering of Rs7 billion. Yasir Mushtaq, Mushtaq Ahmad, Shahid Rafique and Aftab were made approvers in the reference.