LAHORE: An accountability court on Friday sought arguments on applications of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz, seeking permanent exemption from personal appearance in the trial proceedings of a money laundering reference.

Presiding Judge Qamaruz Zaman held the first hearing in the reference as the proceedings had been transferred to his court.

Shehbaz and Hamza did not appear before the court and their counsel filed applications for one-time exemption from the personal appearance.

The counsel told the court that the prime minister had to preside over an important official meeting in Islamabad while Hamza was busy due to a session of the Punjab Assembly for a reelection of the chief minister.

The judge allowed the applications for one-time exemption and directed the counsel to come up with arguments on the applications for permanent exemption on July 26.

In the reference of money laundering, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) alleged that the family members and benamidars of Shehbaz had received fake foreign remittances of billions in their personal bank accounts. In addition to these remittances, the bureau said, billions of rupees were laundered by way of foreign pay orders, which were deposited with the personal bank accounts of his sons, Hamza and Suleman.

Another accountability court on Friday sought further arguments on an application challenging an order for auction of assets owned by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a case of illegal allotment of plots to Jang Group editor-in-chief Mir Shakilur Rehman.

The court will resume its hearing on Aug 15.

The court had already acquitted Rehman and two former officers of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) in the reference of 34-year-old illegal land allotment.

NAB had alleged that Rehman illegally obtained exemption of 54 plots each measuring one-kanal situated in Block-H, Johar Town. It said the allotment of the land had been done in connivance with then chief minister Nawaz Sharif against the exemption policy and the laws for monetary gains. It alleged that the accused caused a loss of Rs143.53m to the national exchequer through allotment of the land in violation of exemption policy.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2022

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