LAHORE: The indictment of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, in a Rs16 billion money laundering case was delayed again on Saturday after a judge allowed the premier a one-time exemption from personal appearance.

The prime minister’s counsel resumed his arguments before a special court against the charge sheet of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in the case, saying the prosecution had failed to produce any evidence of crime proceeds.

Advocate Amjad Pervez, the defence counsel, said the FIA made an alleged offence from the 2008 to 2013 period but registered an FIR in 2020.

He said the agency nominated its own witnesses as accused after they refused to give statements against Shehbaz Sharif, his son Chief Minister Punjab Hamza Shehbaz and others.

The counsel also pointed out that Mr Sharif was not a shareholder or director of any of the companies of his sons implicated in the case by the FIA.

He said the watchdog registered the FIR of the all­eged money laundering at the behest of the previous gov­er­n­ment after it realised that nothing was going to be pro­ved against Mr Sharif and his son in National Acco­unta­bility Bureau references.

The counsel said not a single witness in his statement revealed that the banking transactions mentioned in the challan were part of any illegal activity.

Presiding judge Ijaz Hassan Awan adjourned the hearing until May 21. He also extended the pre-arrest bail of Mr Sharif and Mr Shehbaz until the next hearing.

PM reschedules return

Earlier, the judge allowed an application on behalf of the prime minister for a one-time exemption from personal appearance but directed him to attend the next hearing.

The counsel told the court that Mr Sharif was in London to attend to some important matters and was also due to visit his medical consultant in London since he was a cancer survivor and a patient of chronic backache.

Advocate Pervez told the court Mr Sharif also had to reschedule his return so he could visit the United Arab Emirates to offer his condolences on the passing away of the country’s president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

However, Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz appeared before the court and attended the hearing.

The FIA booked Mr Sharif and his sons Hamza Shehbaz and Suleman Shehbaz in November 2020 under sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 34 and 109 of the Prevention of Corruption Act and read with Section 3/4 of Anti Money Laundering Act. Suleman Shehbaz is in the UK and has been declared an absconder.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2022

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