Money laundering, sugar scam: FIA terms Shehbaz’s reply unsatisfactory

Published October 9, 2021
In this file photo, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif leaves the premises of the Lahore High Court after being granted bail. — AFP
In this file photo, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif leaves the premises of the Lahore High Court after being granted bail. — AFP

LAHORE: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Friday ‘rejected’ the reply of PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif in the money laundering and sugar scam investigation, terming it “incomplete and unsatisfactory”.

The PML-N was quick to respond, saying the National Assembly opposition leader was not supposed to respond on the “whims and fancies” of the agency.

“Mr Shehbaz has submitted his reply to all queries of the FIA purely on legal grounds. He was neither a chief executive officer or director nor a shareholder of the Ramzan Sugar Mills, thus he had nothing to do with its affairs,” Shehbaz’s legal counsel and PML-N Deputy Secretary General Attaullah Tarar told Dawn after submitting his client’s reply to the FIA provincial headquarters on Temple Road here on Friday.

To a question about money laundering charges, Mr Tarar said “these were baseless and frivolous” as neither the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) nor the FIA could prove anything in this respect in the court of law.

“The FIA tries to give an impression that Mr Shehbaz is not cooperating with it in the investigation which is a blatant lie. Both Shehbaz and (his son) Hamza have been cooperating with the FIA investigators. Even when they were in Kot Lakhpat jail, they responded to all queries of FIA and whenever they were summoned by the agency they appeared in person (before it),” Tarar said and alleged that the Imran Khan government wanted Shehbaz behind bars and therefore on his direction this ‘politically motivated’ case had been instituted against him.

“NAB has already investigated Shehbaz and Hamza on these charges. The FIA cannot probe them on the same charges under the law,” the PML-N leader argued. He said Shehbaz during his tenure as Punjab chief minister had even caused a huge financial loss to the sugar mills of his own family only to protect the rights of sugarcane growers, which showed his intention.

On the other hand, an FIA official told Dawn that Mr Shehbaz submitted an ‘incomplete and unsatisfactory’ reply to its questionnaire regarding money laundering allegations in the sugar scam investigation.

“Shehbaz responded to only one question out of 35 in which he claimed that he had no role in the affairs of the Ramzan Sugar Mills. My children and wife are directors/shareholders in this mill, thus they should be asked for its affairs,” he said.

The official said the rest of the reply was related to irrelevant responses like this case was politically motivated, this was an attempt to silence his voice and FIA especially its Lahore director attitude towards him was “aggressive”.

Both the father and son will appear before a special court (offences in bank) Lahore on Saturday (today) for extension to their pre-bail in this case.

In the last hearing, the FIA had told the court that the suspects had not been cooperating with the agency from day one, which was the main reason for a delay in completion of the investigation.

The agency said the Ramzan Sugar Mills, owned by the suspects, was involved in a high level financial fraud.

“At least 57 fictitious bank accounts, used for the money laundering, unearthed so far, opened in the names of 20 employees of this sugar mills during 2008 and closed in 2018,” the FIA said and added Shehbaz, when appearing before the investigators, was unable to recall as to which son of him ran his family business — Hamza or Suleman.

“Suleman is absconding in the UK and Hamza is unaware of the millions of rupees transferred in his bank accounts,” it said.

The FIA had booked Shehbaz, Hamza and Suleman under sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 34 and 109 — financial fraud, impersonation and forgery — of the PPC and 5(2) and 5(3) – criminal misconduct — of Prevention of Corruption Act and r/w 3/4 of Anti Money Laundering Act.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2021

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