LAHORE: An accountability court on Wednesday extended physical remand of Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz for 14 days in a case of alleged illegal assets and money laundering, besides allowing the

National Accountability Bureau to initiate process for confiscation of the assets of his brother Suleman.

The team of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) that presented Hamza in the court once again complained about non-cooperation by the suspect with the investigators.

“The suspect being a politician is not cooperating and is also hesitant to respond in investigation. Therefore, extension of his physical remand is a must for collecting evidence,” said a report submitted by a special prosecutor in the court.

The report further stated that assets worth Rs3.3 billion had been identified so far as illegally accumulated by Hamza, his brother Suleman Shahbaz and their father Shahbaz Sharif.

Hamza’s remand extended for 14 days in illegal assets, money laundering case

It said the suspect’s family committed massive money laundering in the name of foreign remittances and loans. Both brothers established two “benami” companies in 2016 namely M/s Unitas Steel and M/s Good Nature Trading, it added.

The report said chief financial officer of the Unitas Steel, Nadeem Saeed and other officials of the company had been interrogated by the NAB. It said 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 Suleman and sister Ms Rabia Ali under the garb of gifts. It claimed that investigation conducted so far revealed that Suleman and Ms Rabia received foreign remittances in their bank accounts, which were found to be fictitious.

The report said both Suleman and Ms Rabia had not joined investigation while the suspect (Mr Hamza) in custody had been non-cooperative in the investigation.

It said two of the co-suspects -- Aftab Mahmood and Shahid Rafiq -- also turned approvers against the suspect’s family and also recorded their statements before a judicial magistrate. The approvers confessed to have committing money laundering for the prime suspect’s family to the tune of $US2.430 million, the report said.

The court allowed the NAB’s request and extended the remand of Hamza for 14 days, till Sept 4.

Meanwhile, the court also allowed the NAB to initiate process for confiscation of assets owned by Suleman Shahbaz following his failure to join the investigation.

Prosecutor Hafiz Asadullah Awan told the court that arrest warrants had not been served upon the suspect as he escaped abroad. He sought permission from the court to start assets confiscation process.

The court allowed the request and directed the prosecutor to submit a progress report on Aug 30.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019