Court prevents FIA from arresting PM’s absconding son on return

ISLAMABAD: The high court of Islamabad stopped the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from arresting Suleman Shehbaz, one of the two sons of the prime minister, in a money laundering case against him, paving way for his safe return on Sunday after spending four years in London in self-imposed exile.

Since 2018, Shehbaz has been residing in the British capital with his family apparently to escape multiple corruption and financial embezzlement investigations launched against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ahead of that year’s general elections.

He was declared proclaimed offender the following year after he refused to appear before the dirty money watchdog in the Rs16 billion scandal involving members of his family, including Shehbaz Sharif, despite repeated summons, and issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against him.

Following his designation as an offender, the watchdog agency made repeated attempts to bring him back but remained unsuccessful for one reason or the other.

Subsequently, on Wednesday, he sought protective bail from the high court that would enable him to “surrender” before an accountability court.

During the proceedings, Aamer Farooq, chief justice of the high court, asked the petitioner to surrender before the court by December 13, before barring the central probe agency from arresting him until then.

Justice Farooq said it was necessary for an applicant to be present in the court to be eligible to seek protective bail. At this, the counsel for the defendant told the court Shehbaz was expected to return to Islamabad on Sunday.

“He wants to appear before the authorities,” he added, noting the court had granted similar protective bail in the past as well.

Following the arguments, the court approved the request for protection and directed Shehbaz to appear before it in person by December 13.

The money laundering 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 his 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 the Sharif family 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.

The agency also asked the trial court to try the suspects and punish them under the law.

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