LAHORE: Two suspects arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) have turned appro­ver in a money laundering case against the family of the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif for whom they claimed to have laundered over Rs1 billion.

NAB first presented the suspects, Aftab Mahmood and Shahid Rafiq, before its chairman in Islamabad and later brought them back to a magisterial court in Lahore for recording their confessional statements under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

In his statement, Mr Mah­mood claimed to have laundered millions of dollars from 2008 to 2009 through at least 24 telegraphic transfers (TTs) to Hamza Shahbaz, his brother Suleman Shahbaz, mother Nusrat Shahbaz and sister Rabia Imran. He confessed to have laundered over $2.4m for the family.

He said all the money was transferred through his UK-based currency exchange company, Usman International, to the members of the Shahbaz Sharif’s family. He said the TTs were used to be sent with fake identities.

Mr Mahmood said he managed transfer of huge amounts of money to the Sharif family from different UK-based companies and banks, including Barclays and HSBC. He said he did this on the instigation of his cousin, Shahid Rafiq, who ran a currency exchange business in Pakistan.

Mr Rafiq in his statement said he used to pick cash from the office of Suleman Shahbaz to send it abroad and to bring it back to the country finally through foreign TTs.

Mr Rafiq said he ran franchises of two currency exchange companies — Zarco and AAA. He confessed to transferring money to the Sharif family in connivance with Mr Mahmood with fake identities.

NAB in its investigation described the suspects as frontmen of Hamza and Suleman. The suspects were sent to judicial remand by an accountability court after they announced their decision to turn approver.

Previously, another alleged frontman, Mushtaq Cheeni, had confessed to laundering over Rs600m for the sons of Shahbaz Sharif.

Remand extended

Besides, an accountability court extended physical remand of Hamza Shahbaz in the money laundering and illegal assets case till Aug 21.

A NAB prosecutor told the court that investigation had not been completed yet and further custody of the suspect was required.

The defence counsel opposed it, saying NAB had already availed 59-day remand of his client. He said the prosecution had no new ground to seek extension in the remand.

However, the court allowed the NAB’s request and extended the remand for another 11 days.

During the hearing, Hamza Shahbaz came close to the rostrum and informed the judge that NAB had failed to produce any cogent evidence against him. He said, “I hope Allah will do justice”.

In brief conversation with the media, he expressed solidarity with the Kashmiris, saying this Eidul Azha was gloomy due to atrocities of India in held Kashmir.

NAB alleges that Hamza maintained various accounts in different banks in which credit turnover of Rs500m was observed from 2006 to 2017.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2019