–Shehbaz, son Hamza nominated as primary accused for allegedly benefiting family’s sugar mills in Chiniot
–NAB claims to have obtained “sufficient incriminating” evidence against father-son duo
Just days after the Lahore High Court (LHC) accepted Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif’s request for bail in the Ramzan Sugar Mills case, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Monday filed a new reference in the accountability court against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president and his son Hamza Shehbaz.
The father-son duo, leaders of the opposition in the National and Punjab assemblies respectively, have been nominated as the primary accused in the Ramzan Sugar Mills reference.
Shehbaz, while being chief minister of Punjab, had issued a directive for the construction of a drain in Chiniot district primarily to benefit the sugar mills owned by his sons, according to the NAB.
The PML-N president “misused his authority” as the provincial chief minister to benefit factories owned by his sons, a senior NAB official had told a local media outlet in January 2018.
The bureau alleges that Shehbaz and Hamza have “fraudulently and dishonestly” caused a Rs213 million loss to the national exchequer. It claims to have obtained “sufficient incriminating” material and evidence during investigation and prayed the court to try and punish the aforementioned accused.
Both Shehbaz and Hamza have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Shehbaz has already been indicted in the Ashiana Housing reference, whereas Hamza also faces an inquiry in an income beyond means case.
The PML-N president was taken into custody by the NAB Lahore in connection with the Ashiana Housing case on October 5, 2018, when he appeared before the bureau in the Saaf Pani scam investigation.
LAST COURT PROCEEDING:
On Thursday, a two-judge bench, headed by Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan, after accepting Shehbaz’s request for bail, ordered his immediate release on furnishing bail bonds worth Rs20 million in the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme and Ramzan Sugar Mills cases.
The court questioned the logic of arresting Shehbaz instead of the actual beneficiary and chairman of Ramzan Sugar Mills, his son Hamza Shehbaz. However, the court was told that Hamza was extending full cooperation in the investigation and his arrest was not necessary.
Shehbaz had denied all the charges against him as false and frivolous, and his counsel had sought relief of bail on 30 grounds, including one on medical reasons saying that the petitioner — who is more than 67 years old — has suffered from left-sided sciatica since 1994 due to which he has to exercise regularly and needs physiotherapy.
Under the law, a suspect can seek bail soon after being sent on judicial remand by the trial court. Shehbaz was sent on judicial remand after the accountability court on Dec 6 last year denied NAB’s request for further physical remand. The bureau had kept Shehbaz in custody for over 80 days since his arrest.