LAHORE: An accountability court in Lahore on Wednesday deferred the indictment of Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz in a Rs16 billion money laundering case after the prime minister and his son moved fresh pleas seeking acquittal in the probe.
Sharif and his family are facing charges of money laundering of billions of rupees using accounts operated in the name of their businesses and employees, according to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
The agency has nominated Sharif and his sons — Shehbaz and Suleman Shehbaz — as the principal accused in the case. 14 others have been named in the first information report (FIR) under sections 5(2) and 5(3) (criminal misconduct) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, read with 3-4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
While Shehbaz is no longer chief minister of Punjab, his father is expected to request parliamentary immunity from prosecution as he did in the hearings held after he assumed the office of the prime minister following a contentious no-confidence vote against his predecessor, Imran Khan, in April.
The two have already been granted pre-arrest bail in the case. Suleman was declared proclaimed offender by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in 2019 after he refused to appear before the dirty money watchdog despite repeated summons.
The Special Court (Central-I) had summoned the father-son duo in July to frame the charges, however, Amjad Pervaiz, counsel for the prime minister, requested on Sharif’s behalf a one-day exemption from appearance citing his busy schedule in Islamabad due to flood-related activities.
Meanwhile, during the proceedings, Pervaiz and Muhammad Aurangzeb, counsel for Shehbaz, appeared before the court and filed separate pleas seeking acquittal of their clients in the case.
“Shehbaz Sharif cannot appear in court today due to important government engagements, hence the request for one day’s exemption should be granted. FIA has nominated respondents in a baseless case,” Pervaiz told the judge.
The hearing was subsequently adjourned until September 17.
The reference mainly accused Sharif of being a beneficiary of assets held in the name of his family members and benamidars, who had no sources to acquire such assets.
It said the members and benamidars of the Shehbaz family received fake foreign remittances of billions in their personal bank accounts. In addition to these remittances, the bureau said, billions of rupees were laundered by way of foreign pay orders, which were deposited in the personal bank accounts of Sharif’s two sons.
The reference further said that the family of Shehbaz failed to justify the sources of funds used for the acquisition of assets.
It said the suspects committed offences of corruption and corrupt practices as envisaged under the provisions of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, and money laundering as delineated in the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010. It asked the trial court to try the suspects and punish them under the law.__Pakistan Today