Accountability court confirms NAB orders to freeze assets of Shehbaz, relatives

Updated December 11, 2019

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PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif has been on bail in Ramzan Sugar Mills and Ashiyana Housing cases. — AFP/File
PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif has been on bail in Ramzan Sugar Mills and Ashiyana Housing cases. — AFP/File

An accountability court in Lahore on Wednesday confirmed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Lahore's orders to freeze properties owned by PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, his sons Hamza Shehbaz and Salman Shehbaz, and other family members in connection with an investigation involving them in the income beyond means and money laundering case.

The court's confirmation means that Shehbaz and his family members can neither sell their assets nor will the profits gained from the family's properties go to them, according to NAB special prosecutor Hafiz Asadullah.

The decision comes a week after NAB Lahore Director General Shahzad Saleem froze 23 properties of Shehbaz, his sons and other family members in the income beyond means and money laundering case under Section 12 of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.

The NAB orders were to remain in place for 15 days, during which NAB filed an application in the accountability court for their confirmation.

“Having examined evidence collected so far during investigation, it is found that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accused — Shehbaz Sharif, Hamza, Suleman and other Shehbaz Sharif’s family members — have committed the said offences. These properties, therefore, are attached under Section 12 of the NAO 1999 till the disposal of the reference by the accountability court,” an official had earlier told Dawn.

Accountability Courts Administrative Judge Ameer Muhammad Khan in his detailed judgement noted that the Shehbaz family members nominated in the case have been accused of retaining assets beyond their ostensible means and the proportion of their wealth from 2003 to 2018 prima facie "is not proportionate to the known sources of the accused which has not been explained by the accused".

"At this stage, even the provisions of the protection of Economic Reforms Act, 1992, would not be helpful to the accused party unless the sources of the said payments [are] disclosed by them," the judgement states.

It says the NAB freezing orders against the Shehbaz family are also supported by the statements given by approvers namely Muhammad Mushtaq alias Cheeni, Yasir Mushtaq, Shahid Rafique and Aftab Mehmood.

Citing record available with the investigation officer, the judgement notes that the cumulative assets of the Shehbaz family grew from Rs683,337,004 (about Rs683 million) in 2009 to Rs3,068,015,678 (nearly Rs3 billion) in 2018. The accumulation of the said assets in name of the accused was required to be explained by them during interrogation but both Hamza and Shehbaz failed to do so during the inquiry, it adds.

While confirming the freezing orders, the court has stated that the Shehbaz family members have 14 days to file objections against the orders.

According to NAB, the frozen properties include two houses in Model Town, and Nishat Lodges in Dounga Gali, Murree which were acquired by Shehbaz in the name of his wife Nusrat Shehbaz.

A cottage, a villa and a plot in Haripur and a house in Defence Lahore were acquired by Shehbaz in the name of his other wife, Tehmina Durrani. Shehbaz has another house in his own name in DHA Lahore.

Land measuring over 390 kanal in Chiniot is in the name of Hamza Shehbaz and Suleman Shehbaz. Nine plots measuring five marla each in Jauhar Town and an over five-kanal house in Judicial Colony Lahore are in Hamza's name.

The family's moveable assets include thousands of shares owned by Hamza, Suleman and Nusrat in various sugar mills and dairy and poultry farms.

Shehbaz has been on bail in Ramzan Sugar Mills and Ashiyana Housing cases, while Hamza is on judicial remand in the income beyond means, money laundering and Ramzan Sugar Mills cases. Suleman is absconding and presently resides in the UK.

Last month, the NAB Lahore had written to the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), asking it to stop Shehbaz and his family members from transferring their shares/revenue in their nine companies to anyone else.