Published On: Tue, Jun 14th, 2022
Published in Category: Lahore

Special Court says ‘no evidence of corruption, misuse of authority, & bribery’ was so far found on record against PM Shehbaz & Hamza

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LAHORE: Special Court (Central) Lahore said on Monday that “no evidence of corruption, misuse of authority, and bribery” was so far found on record against Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif and his son, Chief Minister Punjab Muhammad Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, in the Rs16 billion money laundering case.

 

Special Court (Central-1) Lahore judge Ijaz Hassan Awan issued the written decision consisting of twenty-two pages. In a written order for confirming their pre-arrest bail, Special Court (Central) Lahore judge Ijaz Hassan Awan said the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) wanted to arrest PM Shehbaz and CM Hamza after they secured bails in the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) cases, showing that the FIA had “mala fide” intentions.

 

The special court, which was hearing the Rs16 billion money laundering case filed by the FIA against the premier and Hamza, granted the two pre-arrest bail last week.

 

“…allegation about gratification, corrupt practice, abuse of official authority, kickbacks, and commission requires further probe during the trial as at this stage cogent evidence is not available, ” the order read.

 

The order said that the investigation office (IO), to date, has not mentioned in his diary that the petitioners were required to be in custody for further investigation.

 

The investigation of the case has been completed and the charge sheet has also been submitted, therefore, the arrests are not required, the special court said, explaining its decision to grant the petitioners bail.

 

The order mentioned that the statements of the 64 people recorded in the case — who had deposited the amounts — relate to Rs60.7 million and not Rs16 billion — as claimed by the FIA.

 

It added that in the statements of the 64 depositors, none mentioned the names of the prime minister and the chief minister. “Moreover, said statements do not spell out any bribery, kickbacks, or commission, etc.”

 

The written decision stated that no clues have been found for the charges of unlawful use of authority and bribe against the PM and Punjab CM. Further investigation is required over the allegations of corruption, bribe and unlawful use of authority.

 

The Investigation Officer has not till present written in the police diary that they require to arrest the accused for investigation, it added.

 

The decision further mentioned that according to the record, FIA quoted that a politician gave Shehbaz Sharif an amount of 14 million for party ticket, while FIA has not given the name of the mentioned politician till present, adding that there was no mention of the said politician even in FIA’s case and no solid evidence has been presented in this regard.

 

According to the decision, the prosecution has not been able to provide any evidence proving that Shehbaz Sharif was a shareholder or director of the Ramzan Sugar Mills. Hamza Shahbaz has been the CEO of Ramzan Sugar Mills, but FIA provided no evidence proving that all the illegal accounts were opened on his behest.

 

The decision added that FIA even interrogated Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz in jail and after that the Investigation Agency remained silent for five months. It was stated that FIA should send call up notices again after the approval of bails of both in the case of owning more assets than their income.

 

As per the written decision, FIA’s approach in this regard exposed the Agency’s dishonesty. The interim bails of the Prime Minister and Punjab CM are being approved.

 

The court also made it clear that the remarks given in the court’s decision over the request of bails are temporary, such remarks will hold no effect on the merit and trail of the case.

 

The order said that the FIA started investigating Hamza and PM Shehbaz when they were already in the NAB’s custody. It noted that they were interrogated twice — on December 18, 2022, and January 8, 2021.

 

Following this, the FIA did not interrogate them for the next five months. Once they were released from NAB’s custody, the court said FIA asked them to appear before it.

 

“This shows that the prosecution wanted to arrest them again after their release, which shows its mal intent, ” the special court’s order said.

 

The court added that although Hamza Shahbaz was the CEO of the Ramazan Sugar Mills, the prosecution was not able to prove that the accounts — used to launder money — were opened on his orders.

 

Initially, the FIA claimed that Hamza was involved in corruption worth Rs25 billion, but later, in the charge sheet, it said that he was involved in corruption worth Rs16 billion, the court mentioned.

 

It is worth mentioning here that in December 2021, the FIA had submitted a challan against Shehbaz and Hamza to the special court for their alleged involvement in laundering Rs16 billion in a sugar scam.

 

According to the FIA report submitted to the court, the investigation team “detected 28 benami accounts of the Shehbaz family through which money laundering of Rs16.3bn was committed from 2008-18. The FIA examined a money trail of 17, 000 credit transactions.”

 

The report added that the amount was kept in “hidden accounts” and “given to Shehbaz in a personal capacity”.

 

This amount (Rs16 billion) has nothing to do with the sugar business (of Shehbaz’s family), it claimed. The money allegedly received from the accounts of low-wage employees was transferred outside Pakistan via hundi/hawala networks, ultimately destined for the beneficial use of his family members, the FIA had said.

 

“Eleven low-paid employees of the Sharif group who ‘held and possessed’ the laundered proceeds on behalf of the principal accused, are found guilty of facilitating money laundering. The three other co-accused of the Sharif group also actively facilitated the money laundering, ” the agency had said.