LAHORE: A special court (central) Wednesday acquitted Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz in a money laundering case.
The court also granted one-day exemption to Shahbaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz from their personal appearance on the request of their counsel.
Earlier, the counsel for Shahbaz contended that none of the witnesses recorded a testimony against Shahbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shahbaz. He said the investigation officer tried to present twisted statements of witnesses as the FIA had made the cases with mala fide intention.
The FIA special prosecutor told the court that co-suspect Masroor Anwar had been operating the bank account of Shahbaz Sharif and added that all Benami accounts were being operated by employees of Ramzan Sugar Mills.
He said the account of another suspect Gulzar Ahmed continued to be operated even after his death. The prosecutor in response to a court query said there is no evidence available on record regarding Gulzar’s account was being operated even after his death.
However, he opposed acquitting the suspects, saying that Hamza is allegedly involved in another Rs 25 billion money laundering case. “We want this case to be proceeded till the suspects are indicted,” the prosecutor urged. The court however observed that the FIA has failed to produce any concrete evidence in the challan submitted against the suspects.
The FIA special prosecutor on Tuesday told the court that no direct transaction had been made in the bank accounts of Shahbaz Sharif and his son from Benami accounts.
The court after hearing both the sides at length reserved its verdict and announced the decision later.
The FIA had submitted challan against Shahbaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz in December 2021 before the court for their alleged involvement in laundering an amount of Rs. 16 billion in the sugar scam case.
The challan of seven volumes submitted by the FIA consists of more than 4,000 pages in which a list of 100 witnesses was also submitted and it was said that 100 witnesses will appear against the accused. The investigation team had detected 28 Benami accounts of the Shahbaz family through which money laundering of Rs 16.3 was committed during 2006-18. The FIA submitted a report before the court which said the agency examined the money trail of 17000 credit transactions in various banks in Lahore and Chiniot.
The report further said that the amount was kept in hidden accounts and given to Shehbaz in a personal capacity. This amount had nothing to do with the sugar business and the money received by Shahbaz from the accounts of their employees was transferred out of country via Hundi/Hawala networks, the report alleged.
It was stated in the challan that earlier Shehbaz Sharif was directly involved in money laundering of more than $5 million through overseas remittances.
The FIA made Shehbaz Sharif, Hamza Shehbaz and Sulaiman Shehbaz the main accused while 14 Benami account holders and six facilitators were made co-accused on the basis of aiding and abetting. Even low paid employees of the mills who held and possessed all the laundered proceeds on behalf of the principal accused were found guilty of facilitating money laundering.
The FIA had booked Shahbaz Sharif and his sons Hamza Shahbaz and Suleman in November 2020 under section sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 34 and 109 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, read with Section 3/4 of Anti-Money Laundering Act. Suleman had been declared a proclaimed offender by the court for his constant absence in the trial proceedings.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022