Monday October 18, 2021

Money-laundering case: FIA shares ‘evidence’ against Shehbaz, Hamza with court

September 26, 2021
Money-laundering case: FIA shares ‘evidence’ against Shehbaz, Hamza with court

LAHORE: A special court (offences in bank) Saturday extended the pre-arrest bail of Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz in the money-laundering and sugar mill scam inquiry by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), till Oct 9.

The FIA officials shared evidence with the court against the duo in five cases.

“A sugar commission, formed in 2020, found that the sugar mill (Ramzan Sugar Mills) was involved in huge financial fraud,” the FIA official told the court, adding that they had traced 57 fake bank accounts, opened in the names of 20 employees of the mill. The official said the Agency was probing 55,498 suspicious transactions.

The FIA director informed the court that 20 bank accounts opened under the names of poor people had been unearthed during the investigation from Shehbaz Sharif. He said transactions of billions of rupees were done from the said accounts. He said they were not in a position to file challan in the case at the moment.

Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and Leader of the Opposition in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz appeared before the court, and FIA Director Muhammad Rizwan produced record of the inquiry.

The director alleged that the accused had not been cooperating with the investigators, which was the main reason for delay in completion of investigation. He said Ramzan Sugar Mills, owned by the accused, was involved in a high-level financial fraud.

Dr Rizwan said the accounts were opened in 2008 and closed in 2018. Through those accounts, various transactions were carried out, 15,800 deposits were made, and in one account in Karachi, 27 billion rupees worth of transactions were made in 13 benamidar accounts. These accounts were used to cover up corruption, the official said.

The FIA director said Ramzan Sugar Mills and its associated businesses continued to be used for money-laundering. He suggested that the case should be taught as a study in business accounting and law schools so that future generations could get rid of the menace of money laundering. This case of mega money laundering is similar to fake accounts case of Omni Group Karachi.

However, Shehbaz Sharif reached the rostrum and told the court that the FIA director was telling lies. He said he had nothing to do with the sugar mill and he had not done anything against the law of the land.

The opposition leader said he was neither a director of Ramzan Sugar Mills nor he had any financial interest in the mill. He said his father had established the sugar mill and he just transferred its ownership to his sons – Hamza and Suleman. “Being the chief minister of Punjab, I denied any benefit to the sugar mill,” Shehbaz told the court. He regretted that despite giving answers to the FIA, he was humiliated during investigation.

The FIA counsel told the court that the fake bank accounts were opened in collaboration with two officers of a private bank. He said the banks were also not cooperating with them. The lawyer pleaded with the court to order the banks and the suspects to cooperate with the FIA in its investigation into the money laundering case.

Shehbaz Sharif pleaded with the court to allow him to speak, but the judge rejected his request, saying that they had listened to him.

Later, he rejected the FIA allegation. He said he was facing a similar case before an accountability court on the same allegations.

The court directed the accused to cooperate with the investigation team.

Hundreds of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) workers gathered outside the court to express solidarity with the party leaders. They chanted slogans against the government and in favour of the opposition leaders.

The FIA had booked Shehbaz and his sons Hamza and Suleman in November 2020 under sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 34 and 109 – financial fraud, impersonation and forgery – of the PPC and 5(2) and 5(3) – criminal misconduct – of Prevention of Corruption Act and r/w 3/4 of Anti Money Laundering Act. Suleman Shehbaz is absconding in the UK.