Govt team attacks Shehbaz, family over FIA probe

Published December 18, 2021
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Shahzad Akbar addresses a press conference in Lahore on Friday. — PID
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Shahzad Akbar addresses a press conference in Lahore on Friday. — PID

LAHORE: The federal government on Friday deployed a battery of its spokespersons in an effort to draw attention to the alleged corruption of Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and his family after the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) submitted a challan a few days ago against the junior Sharif and his sons for allegedly laundering Rs16 billion in the sugar scam case.

Firing a salvo from Lahore, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Shahzad Akbar said Shehbaz and family “captured” state institutions and misused them to launder over Rs16bn.

“After capturing state institutions, those sitting in high political offices committed crimes that landed Pakistan on the Financial Action Task Force grey list,” Mr Akbar claimed while speaking at a presser here.

He said the FIA challan contained 43,000 documents of evidence over seven volumes and over 100 witnesses were also available against Shehbaz.

“The challan clearly explains that Shehbaz Sharif is the ringleader and mastermind of mega money laundering with Hamza Shehbaz, Salman Shehbaz and others as his accomplices who laundered Rs16bn through 28 secret benami accounts during his chief ministership spanning 10 years,” he said.

PML-N claims Shahzad Akbar planning to flee abroad

The adviser said the family had opened bank accounts in the names of low-paid employees of Ramzan Sugar Mills and all the money transferred and laundered through these accounts had nothing to do with the sugar business.

Providing details of the low-paid employees, Mr Akbar cited an example of the bank account of a peon, Gulzar Ahmad Khan, wherein one Aurangzeb Butt deposited a cheque of Rs5 million in 2013-14. Soon afterwards, he said, Butt was appointed as chief of the Gujrat Beautification Committee on the orders of Shehbaz Sharif’s personal staff officer Attaullah Tarar. The peon died in 2015, but his account remained functional till 2017-18, he claimed.

He, however, said the low-paid employees were not defaulters, but had been mentioned in the FIA challan. They could become approvers in the case subject to the prosecution’s decision, he explained.

Meanwhile, Information and Broad­casting Minister Fawad Chaudhry said after the availability of the supposed evidence in the money laundering case, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif cannot escape punishment, reported APP.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad along with Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid and Special Adviser to the PM on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill, the information minister said Shahzad Akbar had during a meeting of spokespersons given a detailed briefing on the alleged corruption of Shehbaz and family.

About a year ago, he said, it had come to light that the former chief minister and his son, Hamza, were involved in money laundering and operated (benami) accounts directly in which 17,000 transactions by 18 individuals were detected. These accounts were used to launder Rs16bn by only one factory owned by Shehbaz and family.

He alleged that this corruption was just the tip of the iceberg and asked the media to examine the case documents and bring facts before the people. Shehbaz can only escape punishment if no hearings in the case were held. He hoped the court would hear the case daily for its early disposal.

He further told the media that during the Punjab committee meeting, the premier expressed dissatisfaction over the Khanewal by-election. He said deficiencies should be rectified and the election commission take steps accordingly as there were reports of money laundering and horse trading during the by-elections.

He also said a high-level committee had been formed in Punjab to finalise the candidates for district mayor for the upcoming local body elections in the province.

Furthermore, he said Energy Minister Hammad Azhar briefed the spokespersons meeting on the gas issue, saying it was not possible for the government to provide costly imported gas to industries at cheaper rates.

Reacting to the government’s tirade, the PML-N alleged Shahzad Akbar is planning to leave the country sensing difficult times ahead for the PTI government.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan has admonished Mr Akbar for causing troubles for him as at the end of the day nothing has been proven against opposition leaders. There are reports that Akbar has decided to move abroad as he knows the Imran Khan government’s days are numbered,” said PML-N deputy secretary general Attaullah Tarar at a presser in Lahore.

Also, Shehbaz Sharif’s spokesperson Malik Ahmad Khan said it was unprecedented that an adviser was controlling investigations by institutions — a reference to the NAB and FIA. “The Sharif group of industries should take legal action against Shahzad Akbar,” he suggested.

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2021

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