LAHORE: The Federal Inves­tigation Agency (FIA) on Saturday told a special court (central-I) that it required custody of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz to complete investigation against them in a Rs16 billion money laundering case.

However, the court ultimately extended the bail of the prime minister as well as the Punjab CM.

Shehbaz and Hamza were present in court when presiding Judge Ijaz Hassan Awan asked FIA special prosecutor Farooq Bajwa whether the agency required the arrest of both suspects.

At this, the prosecutor said the agency required custody of both as they did not join the investigation. He also asked the court to not confirm the pre-arrest bail of the suspects.

Advocate Amjad Pervez, the defence counsel, quickly denied the contention of the prosecution as baseless. He said both Shehbaz and Hamza appeared before the FIA investigators whenever they were summoned. He alleged the previous government used state machinery for political engineering against opposition. He said the previous government had a sole agenda of sending Shehbaz and Hamza to jail.

Shehbaz, Hamza seek exemption from personal appearance in NAB references

The counsel said the FIA held its investigation for one-and-half-years and failed to bring any cogent evidence on record. He said Shehbaz and Hamza were already in jail when the FIA interrogated them.

The judge allowed both suspects to leave as they had to appear before an accountability court as well.

In his concluding arguments on the pre-arrest bail, Advocate Pervez said the FIA in its challan could not link any criminal act to the banking transactions made part of the investigation. He said the agency arrested Mushtaq Cheeni, a dealer of Ramzan Sugar Mills, but did not make him a witness or a suspect in the case.

He asked the court to confirm the bail of the suspects as the challan had already been submitted by the prosecution.

The judge observed that the prosecution alleged that amounts had been withdrawn from the bank account of a co-suspect, namely Gulzar, even after his death.

The defence counsel said if this was true the prosecution needed to prove whether the withdrawn money was transferred to the bank account of Hamza.

The judge adjourned further hearing till June 11 and also extended the pre-arrest bail of Shehbaz and Hamza.

Earlier, the special prosecutor filed a supplementary challan to the extent of proclaimed offenders (POs) including Suleman Shehbaz, the premier’s younger son, Malik Maqsood Ahmad and Syed Tahir Naqvi.

He said the Model Town address of Maqsood, a peon of the sugar mills, had been found incorrect. In fact, he said, the suspect lived in an area called Model Colony.

The judge issued fresh arrest warrants of the POs.

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

NAB references

PM Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab CM Hamza Shehbaz on Saturday appeared before an accountability court in references of money laundering, Ashiana Housing Scheme and Ramzan Sugar Mills.

The PM filed an application for permanent exemption from personal appearance in the references citing official responsibilities. The application asked the court to allow a pleader to attend the hearings on behalf of Shehbaz.

It said the PM would appear whenever summoned by the court.

Hamza also filed a similar application before the court.

The court adjourned the hearing till June 20 for arguments on the applications.

Earlier, the court recorded statements of two prosecution witnesses in the housing scheme reference. Other accused including former director general of Lahore Development Authority Ahad Khan Cheema also appeared before the court.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2022

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