LAHORE: An accountability court on Saturday extended physical remand of Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz for another seven days in a case of alleged illegal assets and money laundering.
The officials of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) presented Mr Hamza before the court while its special prosecutor Hafiz Asadullah Awan submitted an application for 15-day extension in his physical remand.
At the outset of the hearing, Presiding Judge Ameer Muhammad Khan asked the prosecutor as to how many days Hamza had already spent on physical remand with the NAB.
The prosecutor said the suspect was on remand for the last 52 days, however, new evidences had been surfaced against him and his brother Salman Shahbaz after employees of their companies were interrogated by NAB.
The prosecutor also filed a report to the court and stated that assets worth Rs3.3 billion had been “identified” so far as illegally accumulated by Hamza, his brother Salman and their father Shahbaz Sharif.
The report alleged that the family of the suspect committed massive money laundering in the name of foreign remittances and loans. It said both brothers established two “benami” companies in 2016 -- M/s Unitas Steel and M/s Good Nature Trading.
It said chief financial officer of the Unitas Steel, Nadeem Saeed and other officials of the company had been interrogated by the NAB. The suspects also established another benami company -- M/s Unitas Distillery -- which was not found in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) record.
It said Hamza received benefits from different family members, including brother Salman and sister Ms Rabia Ali under the garb of gifts. It claimed that investigation conducted so far revealed that Salman and Ms Rabia received foreign remittances in their bank accounts, which were found to be “fictitious”.
The report said both Salman and Ms Rabia had not joined investigation while the suspect (Mr Hamza) in custody had been non-cooperative in the investigation.
The prosecutor urged the court to grant further remand of the suspect as his custody was essential to procure more evidence, detection of “hidden assets” and recovery of “crime proceeds”.
On the other side, defence counsel Amjad Pervez said whatever the NAB’s report said was not new. He said the prosecutor had already mentioned Unitas Company on the last hearing.
He said all the companies and properties mentioned by the NAB were already declared in all tax documents. He asked the court to not grant further custody of Hamza to the NAB and send him on judicial remand.
However, the judge extended the physical remand of Hamza for seven days and directed the NAB to produce him again on Aug 10.
Earlier, the lawyers and court’s staff expelled a man from the courtroom for disrupting the proceedings. The man, later identified as Sheikh Iqbal, shouted slogans against Mr Hamza and his father Shahbaz Sharif.
PML-N MNA Pervez Malik and his son MNA Ali Pervez, also attended the proceedings to show solidarity with Mr Hamza.
Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2019