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February 25, 2021

Money-laundering reference: LHC grants Hamza bail after 20 months

Top Story

February 25, 2021

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court Wednesday granted bail to Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz 20 months after his arrest in money-laundering reference.

The NAB had arrested him on June 11, 2019 while the reference was filed with a delay of over a year on August 20, 2020, said Hamza’s lead counsel Azam Nazir Tarar before a two-judge bench during the final hearing of the bail petition. The counsel also posed a query before the bench as to who would be held responsible if the petitioner was acquitted after staying three years behind the bars. “Whereas if convicted, the petitioner would undergo his complete sentence,” he added. He pointed out that the charges were framed on November 11, 2020 after a delay of 17 months. He said the delay could not be attributed to the petitioner in any manner whatsoever.

Rejecting an allegation of the prosecution about delay on part of the defence, Tarar said the defence sought adjournments in the trial only on the death of mother of Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif, a principal accused in the reference, and the grandmother of the petitioner. He said a report filed by the trial court before the Supreme Court itself admitted that at least 10 to 12-month time was required for conclusion of the trial proceedings. In his final arguments, NAB Special Prosecutor Faisal Bokhari argued at length and said the ground of delay or hardship was not attached in the case of the petitioner. He said the trial proceedings had been progressing smoothly. He accused the petitioner of using delaying tactics to prolong the trial. He said the prosecution never sought an adjournment in the trial. The prosecutor said a huge amount of Rs7 billion was involved in the money-laundering reference. He said there were many suspected transactions directly made in the bank accounts of the petitioner. Bokhari also related the case of Hamza with the sanctions of Financial Action Task Force (FATF), saying the upcoming meetings of the international forum would be significant on the point of money-laundering. Justice Sardar Sarfraz Dogar, who headed the bench, however, did not entertain this argument of the prosecutor. The judge asked the prosecutor as to how long the NAB wanted to keep the petitioner behind bars. Bokhari said the prosecution would have no objection if the trial court decided to hold day-to-day proceedings. The judge further asked the prosecutor as to why the petitioner was arrested earlier if the reference was to be filed with a delay of one year. The bench allowed the post-arrest bail to Hamza and directed him to furnish bonds of Rs10 million. The PML-N workers gathered at the court premises celebrated the bail to Hamza by shouting slogans and distributing sweets. Hamza is likely to be released from jail today (Thursday) after the process of bail bond.