LAHORE: The presiding officer of a special court (offences in bank) on Friday showed his displeasure over the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) failure to submit challan (investigation report) in the money laundering and sugar scam inquiry against Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza before the court of competent jurisdiction.

On the last hearing, judge Sardar Tahir Sabir had decided the question of court’s jurisdiction in the matter and returned the challan to the FIA for presentation before the Special Judge (Central-I). The judge had also extended the pre-arrest bail of Shehbaz and Hamza for seven days allowing them to file the petitions afresh before the court of competent jurisdiction.

However, on Friday, Hamza along with his counsel appeared before the same court as the FIA had not submitted the challan before the court concerned. Shehbaz did not appear as he had been infected with Covid-19. The judge allowed an application on behalf of Shehbaz for one-time exemption from appearance.

Judge Sabir asked Advocate Amjad Pervez, the defence counsel, as to why the suspects did not file their bail petitions before the court concerned since the question of the jurisdiction had been decided.

Prosecution team is inept, observes judge

The counsel said the prosecution did not submit the challan before the special judge (central-I). He said it had been 16 months since the start of the inquiry and the FIA could not file its challan.

FIA prosecutor Moazam Habib objected to the defence counsel’s opinion. However, the judge said the defence had raised a valid point. “Let me say that the prosecution team is inept,” the judge added.

The judge extended the bail of Shehbaz and Hamza till Jan 28. He observed that the prosecution would submit challan before the special judge (central-I) on Jan 24 giving four days to the suspects to file fresh petitions for bail.

The FIA had booked Shehbaz and his sons Hamza and Suleman in November 2020 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. Suleman Shehbaz is absconding in the UK.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2022

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