LAHORE: An accountability court on Wednesday remanded Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz in custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for investigation into two cases — Ramzan Sugar Mills and money laundering/assets beyond means.

A heavy police contingent was deployed in and outside the judicial complex before the appearance of Hamza and all adjacent roads were also closed for routine traffic. Lawyers, media persons, litigants and workers of the PML-N had to struggle to reach the court.

The PML-N parliamentarians, including Rana Iqbal and Rana Mashhood, were already present when the NAB personnel brought Hamza to the court.

Several party lawyers and workers were denied entry to the courtroom by the police personnel. MPA Rukhsana Kausar fell on the ground during a tug of war with women police to enter the courtroom.

Several PML-N workers denied entry to courtroom

At the outset of the hearing, Presiding Judge Jawadul Hassan asked the bureau’s prosecution team as if the suspect was present in the court.

“Yes, here he is,” said Advocate Amjad Pervez, the counsel for Hamza.

To a court’s query, NAB special prosecutor Waris Ali Janjua said the ground of arrest had been furnished to the suspect.

Narrating the grounds, the prosecutor stated that evidence so far collected revealed that the suspect maintained various bank accounts in different banks in which credit turnover of Rs500 million was observed during the years 2006 to 2017.

He said the suspect during 2012 to 2015 acquired various commercial and residential properties in Johar Town and Judicial Colony of Lahore valuing around Rs167m. He said the evidence also revealed that in 2003 the total wealth of the suspect was Rs18.962m that increased up to Rs411m in 2017 without having proportionate sources of income.

The prosecutor pointed out that the suspect received fictitious foreign remittances of Rs181m in one of his bank accounts, Rs2.11 billion in the accounts of his brother Salman, mother Nusrat and close associates, benamidars and employees of their companies.

He said the inquiry held so far disclosed that the foreign remittances were also from fictitious sources as a large number of remitters denied the claim of the suspect. He said a 15-day physical remand of the suspect was required for procurement of further evidence, detection of hidden assets and recovery of crime proceeds.

Through another application, the prosecutor also sought remand of the suspect in the sugar mills case for interrogation.

The counsel for Hamza opposed the physical remand and said all the questions of the NAB had already been answered in writing. He said the prosecution had not supplied to the suspect complete documents being used against him including a report of Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU).

He argued that the NAB initiated inquiry against the suspect relying upon Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010, which it could not do under the law. He said the NAB could not go beyond its ordinance.

Advocate Pervez said “money-laundering” was a joke that the NAB had been telling the people and making them to believe it.

He said all the record of the case was already rested with the prosecution and there was no need to grant physical remand of the suspect.

However, the judge allowed 14-day custody of Hamza to the NAB and directed it to produce him again on June 26.

Hamza was arrested the other day at the Lahore High Court after his petitions for pre-arrest bail were dismissed as withdrawn. His counsel had withdrawn the pleas after a two-judge bench rejected his prayer for the access to the report of FMU.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2019