PM aide on accountability challenges Shehbaz to take him to court over The Mail news story

Published July 15, 2019
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar addresses a press conference in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV screengrab
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar addresses a press conference in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV screengrab

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar on Monday urged PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif not to back away from his "promise" of filing a case against Akbar over a news story published in The Mail, which accused the former chief minister of embezzling money from foreign funds.

"You must [sue] me and sue me in a London [court] [...] And in that court, I will [produce evidence] of every TT (telegraphic transfer) made by you; how kick backs were sent from here; how money was transferred through hundi and hawala," Akbar said in a press conference in Islamabad.

Akbar's press conference came a day after The Mail published a story alleging that the former Punjab chief minister had embezzled money from funds provided by the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) to aid victims of 2005 earthquake and floods in later years.

The PML-N had refuted the story yesterday and alleged that it was published on the behest of Prime Minister Imran Khan and Akbar. Sharif had also announced that he would sue the British newspaper as well as Akbar and the prime minister.

In today's press conference, Akbar said that The Mail's story covered only a "small part" of the corruption committed by the former Punjab chief minister. He denied that he had exercised influence in the publishing of the story.

He showed the copy of a pay order of Rs20m sent in September 2002 to private company Messers Ali and Co. which is allegedly owned by Sharif's son-in-law, Ali Imran. The money, according to the pay order, was transferred from the earthquake reconstruction fund, Akbar said.

He added that former Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority director Naveed Ikram, who had struck a plea bargain with the National Accountability Bureau, had admitted to paying the amount as a bribe.

Akbar showed copies of more pay orders and demand drafts that indicated the transfer of money from the earthquake reconstruction fund's account to Imran's company.

The premier's aide said that the assets beyond known means case against Shehbaz Sharif's family had started after the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) detected "suspicious transactions" from the bank accounts of the accused.

Akbar said that FMU's data showed that foreign remittances amounting to more than $26 million were transferred to the accounts of Sharif family members more than 200 times.

"The forensic analysis of the declared assets of [Hamza Shehbaz] shows that about 59 per cent of his assets have been made by TTs that have been proven fake," Akbar said.

He stated that the people who had allegedly sent remittances to the Sharif family had been found to be poor people self-employed as food vendors or labourers, who could not have realistically afforded to transfer such huge amounts of money.

When asked about the rebuttal issued by DFID to The Mail story, Akbar said it was not a separate statement and had been included in the published story.

"DFID's internal audit report also points toward irregularities," Akbar said.

"DFID funded a project and money was stolen from those funds. It is not about DFID — it is about money stolen by [authorities] here."

'Shahzad Akbar should present evidence'

PML-N leaders Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Marriyum Aurangzeb responded to Akbar's allegations in a press conference held soon after his media talk and said that if "anyone has proof [of corruption against Sharif] they should take it to court".

Abbasi said that Sharif had expelled Naveed Ikram — who was mentioned by Akbar earlier — from the Punjab Power Company on corruption charges. The former premier criticised Akbar, saying that "lies are the only asset he (the premier's aide) owns".

The former premier further said that every allegation hurled at PML-N by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf was devoid of truth. He pointed out that Shehbaz had filed a defamation suit against Prime Minister Imran Khan in the Supreme Court but the latter had never appeared.

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