The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) prosecutor on Saturday, during a special court hearing, gave a clean chit to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son, former Punjab chief minister Hamza Shehbaz, on the charges of money laundering to the tune of Rs16 billion, saying there was no direct evidence against them in the case.
Amjad Pervez, the lawyer representing the prime minister, also concluded his arguments in the premier’s acquittal application. The arguments by Hamza’s counsel are yet to be completed. A medical report was submitted to the court seeking Hamza’s exemption from personal appearance because of his health issues.
The judge adjourned the proceedings till October 11 for arguments on Hamza’s acquittal application. As the proceedings commenced, the lawyer representing PM Shehbaz argued that the FIA had removed the allegation of Rs9 billion from the challan.
He added that the five bank accounts containing Rs9 billion had nothing to do with the prime minister and his other son, Suleman Shehbaz. “They [the bank accounts] belonged to another suspect, Mushtaq Cheeni, and the FIA had not initiated an investigation against him,” Pervez told the court.
The lawyer further maintained that the “false” tales of the kickbacks mentioned in the FIR had not been made part of the challan. He added that it seemed that the case had been created inspired by the TV series “Money Heist”.
Pervez quoted as reference the decision in PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi’s recent case. He added that this case was also similar in nature. To this, the judge asked what was similar between the two cases. Pervez replied that Moonis’ case also revolved around the allegation of transferring money through low-wage employees.
The lawyer added that his client and Hamza could not be punished relying upon the record, which had been collected or submitted to the court by the previous PTI regime. PM Shehbaz taking the rostrum told the court that he had not been taking his salary as well as travelling and daily allowances during his last three tenures as the Punjab chief minister.
He added that this amount was in millions so how could he even think of earning Rs2.5 million or above fraudulently. The prime minister’s counsel completed his arguments on his client’s acquittal application.
The FIA had registered a case against then opposition leader Shehbaz and his sons Hamza and Suleman in November 2020 under Sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 34 and 109 of Prevention of Corruption Act and r/w 3/4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act. In December 2021, the agency had submitted a challan against Shehbaz and Hamza over their alleged involvement in a Rs16 billion money laundering case.
The FIA’s report had released 28 benami accounts of the Shehbaz family. They were detected by an investigation team. Through these accounts. money laundering of R16.3 billion was committed during 2008-18. The FIA had examined the money trail of 17,000 credit transactions.
The report had added up that the amount was kept in hidden accounts and given to Shehbaz in a personal capacity. The FIA had alleged that the money received from the accounts of low-wage employees by Shehbaz had been transferred outside Pakistan to his family through the illegal practice of hundi. Eleven low-paid employees of the Sharif family were found guilty of facilitating this alleged money laundering.