Suleman granted bail in money-laundering case

ISLAMABAD: An accountability court in Islamabad on Friday granted until January 7 interim pre-arrest bail to Suleman Shehbaz, son of the prime minister, in two cases of money laundering and accumulating assets beyond known sources of income.

Shehbaz, who returned to Pakistan earlier this month after four years in London in self-imposed exile, is a suspect in an Rs16 billion money laundering case registered with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) while the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has accused him of being in possession of assets beyond his declared sources of income.

He has been declared a proclaimed offender in both investigations.

Prior to his return, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) restrained the two agencies from arresting him, paving way for his safe return.

On Friday, accountability judge Raja Qamar uz-Zaman approved the request of Shehbaz against surety bonds worth Rs500,000. He also barred NAB from arresting him in the case.

In his petition, filed the petition through Amjad Parvez, Shehbaz argued he was booked in the case without any evidence. He also insisted he was declared proclaimed offender without any prior information, claiming he did not receive any notice from the court.

He also said legal formalities required to declare a suspect a proclaimed offender was not fulfilled in his case. Therefore, he said he be granted interim bail in the case.

Since 2018, Shahbaz had been residing in the British capital with his family apparently to escape multiple corruption and financial embezzlement investigations launched against him by the dirty money watchdog ahead of that year’s general elections.

He was declared proclaimed offender the following year after he refused to appear before the agency in the scandal involving members of his family, including 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.

The reference mainly accused Shehbaz 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.

Sharif and his other son, Hamza Shahbaz, were acquitted of the charges by a court in October but Shahbaz could not be tried after he fled to London.

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