LAHORE: Anticipating the change of government in the Centre, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Lahore chief, who is probing into the money laundering cases against the joint opposition’s nominees for the slots of the prime minister and Punjab chief minister, Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz, respectively, has gone on leave for indefinite period.

According to a notification, FIA Lahore Director Mohammad Rizwan has gone on leave on full pay with effect from April 11, 2022, onward. A source in the FIA told Dawn on Saturday that Mr Rizwan had gone on leave anticipating his ‘certain transfer’ if there is a change in the federal government.

“The first order the new government may pass will be the transfer of Mr Rizwan with whom Shehbaz Sharif was not happy for, what he [Shehbaz] called, taking dictations from [former accountability adviser to the premier] Shehzad Akbar in the cases instituted against him and his family members at the behest of Prime Minister Imran Khan,” the source said.

A special court (Central-I) of FIA is likely to indict Shehbaz and Hamza in Rs14 billion money laundering case on Monday (April 11).

Last year, giving in to the demand of the lawmakers belonging to Jahngir Tareen group, the PTI government had removed Mr Rizwan from heading the investigation against Tareen and his son Ali Tareen in the sugar scam. However, the government later restored the officer.

Now Mr Tareen and the lawmakers backing him have pledged their support for the joint opposition candidates for the top positions in the Centre and Punjab.

The source says the FIA has already been directed to “go slow” in the cases against Tareen.

The FIA investigation under Mr Rizwan detected 28 benami accounts, allegedly of the Shehbaz family, through which an amount to the tune of Rs14bn was laundered from 2008 to 2018. The FIA examined the money trail of 17,000 credit transactions and the amount was kept in “hidden accounts” and given to Shehbaz in his personal capacity, the FIA said.

“This amount (Rs14bn) has nothing to do with the sugar business (of Shehbaz family). The money received through 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. In 1998 Sadiqa Syed, a Bahraini 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 documents said.

The FIA 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.

Prime Minister Imran Khan reportedly had removed accountability adviser Akbar for his failure to get Shehbaz Sharif convicted in this case.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2022

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