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Friday December 02, 2022

Money-laundering case: Shehbaz attends court hearing

October 01, 2022
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. —File Photo
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. —File Photo

LAHORE: The Special Court Central on Friday adjourned the hearing of a money-laundering case against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, his son Hamza Shehbaz and others till October 8 after the premier appeared before the court.

As the hearing commenced, the court questioned where Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz were. To which, their counsel replied that Shehbaz was on his way and would arrive shortly. He said there was a cabinet meeting, but the prime minister would appear in the court. However, Hamza had filed an application for exemption from attendance on medical grounds.

The counsel argued that in the FIR, it was alleged that money laundering of Rs 25 billion from 2008 to 2018 took place and his clients were accused of committing money laundering through bogus companies.

He said the allegations made in the FIR were general in nature. It was further alleged that the companies involved in money laundering belonged to the Sharif group. But Shehbaz was neither a director nor a shareholder of any company during the last 10 years.

The counsel argued that the FIR was registered after an inquiry and no role of Shehbaz had been written in the opening paragraph of the FIR. The prosecution added an account of 2 billion 80 crore rupees to the FIR, but in the final Challan, the account was removed. Earlier, this account was declared Benami account of Mushtaq Cheeni and Cheeni’s driver was accused of opening an account worth Rs 2.5 crore, but he was not made an accused.

The counsel said Mushtaq was not made an accused, but Suleman Shehbaz was made. According to the law, the same action should have been taken on Mushtaq Cheeni and a separate case should have been registered. It was surprising that the government had not taken any action on Mushtaq Cheeni’s account.

He argued that Suleman Shehbaz was independent in doing any kind of business. He alleged that the PTI home minister used prosecution and investigation agencies for political engineering, and the case was made against Shehbaz on political grounds. Owning movable and immovable property was the fundamental right of every citizen, he argued.

To which, the judge remarked that “it should be declared, otherwise it will be black money”. The counsel said if not declared, the FBR took action. He said this FIR was registered by the previous government. Moreover, in the FIR, the low-wage employees did not say that these accounts were opened at the behest of Shehbaz. He said the prosecution alleged that the record of the sale of sugar worth four billion rupees was hidden. But it was to be examined whether the FIA had the authority to act on this charge or not. He said the FIR showed that all the accounts were opened for the transactions of Suleman, but I am not Suleman’s lawyer. Masroor Anwar was not a personal employee of Shehbaz and was an employee of the company.

Meanwhile, Shehbaz took to the rostrum and sought permission from the court to say something, which was granted. He said: “As chief minister of Punjab, I took decisions that damaged the family’s sugar business. Due to his decisions, billions of rupees of the national kitty were saved.” Later, he was allowed to leave the courtroom.

The court adjourned the hearing. The counsel of Shehbaz will complete his arguments on the acquittal application of Shehbaz in the next hearing. The Federal Investigation Agency had registered a case against Shehbaz, Hamza and Suleman in November 2020 under Sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 34 and 109 of the Prevention of Corruption Act and R/W 3/4 of Anti-Money Laundering Act.

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