Indictment of Shehbaz, Hamza in money laundering case deferred — again

LAHORE: An accountability court in Lahore on Monday deferred until May 21 the indictment of Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz in a Rs16 billion money laundering case after the prime minister extended his stay in the United Kingdom ostensibly to avoid the court.

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).

During the proceedings on Saturday, Amjad Pervaiz, counsel for Sharif, approached the Special Court (Central-I), requesting judge Ijaz Hassan Awan an exemption from personal appearance in the case on medical grounds.

The application read Sharif was scheduled to return from his visit to London on May 13 but was delayed since an appointment with his medical consultant could not be set up before 12:30 pm Saturday.

Sharif was a cancer survivor and a patient of chronic backache and his medical checkup had been long overdue since the previous government did not allow him to fly abroad, it claimed.

Therefore, “the non-appearance of the petitioner is neither malafide nor intentional, rather, the same is on the account of the above said reason,” the application added.

The court then granted Sharif an exemption from appearance and adjourned the hearing till May 21.

On Thursday, a letter written to judge Awan on behalf of the agency emerged, suggesting the FIA director general, Muhammad Tahir Rai, has decided against prosecuting the father-son duo in the case.

“The concerned quarters are not interested to prosecute the accused persons,” it read, requesting the judge that these instructions be made part of the case record.

However, a spokesman of the agency later clarified the case had not been withdrawn.

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 family 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 Hamza and his brother Suleman Shehbaz.

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.

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