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LAHORE: Opposition Leader in the National Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif in his written reply to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has not responded to any of the 35 questions, but said that the cases initiated against him and his family members were merely politically motivated.

The PML-N president and his family members are facing the charge of money laundering of Rs25 billion through the bank accounts of clerical staff of their two sugar mills - Al-Arabia and Ramzan Sugar Mills.

An official source familiar with the information told Business Recorder that the PML-N president, who had allegedly been dodging the FIA investigators about suspicious transactions of Rs25bn into the bank accounts (both declared and benami) of the low-wage employees of the two sugar mills, has finally submitted his response to the agency through his counsel.

"This time too Shehbaz dodged the FIA and did not respond to any of the 35 questions asked by the Combined Investigation Team (CIT) through a questionnaire," the source said, adding that the younger Sharif also accused the investigators, especially FIA Punjab Zone-I Director Muhammad Rizwan, of victimizing him at the behest of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who allegedly wants to keep him trapped in "politically motivated" cases just to silence his dissenting voice as being the opposition leader in the National Assembly.

"I am telling you (investigators) since day one that I am not the shareholder or director of any of the sugar mills and I have no role in the family business. My children are the shareholders/beneficiaries of the sugar mills and the family business and they are mature and not dependant on me," the source quoting the Sharif's statement added.

The source claimed that Shehbaz expressed that asking questions from him and trapping him in "false" cases was an attempt to silencing his voice as being the opposition leader.

It may be noted that a Lahore court on September 25 had extended interim bail of PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz till Oct 9 and they would again appear before a court today to secure another extension.

According to the FIA charge sheet, its sugar investigation team in Lahore, while conducting a criminal investigation with respect to Al-Arabia Sugar Mills Ltd/Ramzan Sugar Mills Ltd and the Shehbaz family-owned business entities, discovered over Rs25 billion deposited from 2008 to 2018 in the bank accounts opened/operated in the names of peons and clerks of the sugar mills when Shehbaz held the Punjab Chief Minister's office.

The agency claimed to posses "credible evidence" of over Rs25 billion (including gratifications from sources extraneous to sugar business) in the accounts opened and operated in the name of low-wage employees of the Shehbaz family sugar mills.

It further said the money received from the accounts of low-wage employees by Shehbaz was transferred outside Pakistan via hundi/hawala networks, and ultimately destined for beneficial use of his family members. The PML-N president and his son Hamza are out on bail.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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