LAHORE: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) submitted the challan against PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif and son Hamza Shehbaz to a special court on Monday for their alleged involvement in laundering an amount of Rs16 billion in the sugar scam case.

In another development, the agency claimed it had unearthed the role of a Bahraini woman in the saga at the behest of former finance minister Ishaq Dar.

“The investigation team has detected 28 benami accounts of the Shehbaz family through which money laundering of Rs16.3bn was committed during 2008-18. The FIA examined the money trail of 17,000 credit transactions,” according to an FIA report.

The amount was kept in “hidden accounts” and given to Shehbaz in a personal capacity, the report added.

This amount (Rs16bn) has nothing to do with the sugar business (of Shehbaz family).The money received from the accounts of low-wage employees by Shehbaz was transferred outside Pakistan via hundi/hawala networks, ultimately destined for beneficial use of his family members, the FIA alleged.

The report further said that in 1998 Sadiqa Syed, a Barhrain national, had helped Shehbaz Sharif (then chief minister of Punjab) in laundering $5 million with the help of Ishaq Dar (then federal finance minister).

The FIA has nominated Shehbaz Sharif and his sons — Hamza and Suleman — as the principal accused in the case. Fourteen others have been named in the FIR under sections 5(2) and 5(3) (criminal misconduct) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, read with 3/4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

“Eleven low-paid employees of the Sharif group who ‘held and possessed’ the laundered proceeds on behalf of the principal accused, are found guilty of facilitating money laundering. The three other co-accused of the Sharif group also actively facilitated the money laundering,” the agency said.

The benami accounts, which had deposits totalling Rs16.3bn, were not declared by the principal accused, according to the FIA.

“The onus of proving pecuniary resources disproportionate to known sources of income and acquired ostensibly through improper means, lies on public servants,” it said.

“Shehbaz Sharif, then CM of Punjab and Hamza, then an MNA, were given ample opportunities during investigation to explain the same. However, due to their persistent evasive attitude and total non-cooperation, they missed the opportunities.

“The exact role and guilt of Suleman will be determined upon his arrest/surrender, but the evidence suggests that he aided and abetted his brother Hamza and thus found guilty of same offence.”

The investigation agency further said Mr Shehbaz was so “non-cooperative” during questioning that when he was asked which of his sons controlled the Sharif group and Ramzan Sugar Mills (RSML), he expressed his ignorance.

“He said he did not know the reasons behind Suleman’s absconding to the United Kingdom. Similarly, Hamza’s non-cooperation with FIA was such that he even denied having knowledge of who deposited funds into his personal accounts.

“As CEO of the Sharif group/RSML, all record was under Hamza’s custody, but he extended no cooperation, purposefully, to frustrate the investigation.”

The report said Suleman Shehbaz, who had left the country for Britain in October 2018, was served three notices but he did not respond.

“The investigation of this case entails unwinding of a complex financial matrix of layering/mega money laundering of billions of rupees. Hence it was very time-consuming and wide in scope.

“Despite the evasive and non-cooperative attitude of the accused, the investigation team detected 57 very high turnover fictitious ID/benami bank accounts in the name of individuals and fictitious business entities having over 55,000 inward (credit) and outward (debit) transactions between 2008 and 2018,” the agency said.

Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza have secured pre-arrest bail in the case till Dec 16.

Earlier, the FIA had accused the prime suspects of money laundering worth Rs25bn, but in the final report it said it was able to collect evidence for Rs16.3bn.

In a press release, Marriyum Aurangzeb, the PML-N’s information secretary, accused the Imran Khan-led government of trying to send Shehbaz Sharif to jail.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2021

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