LAHORE: A special court (central-I) on Wednesday deferred the indictment of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz in a Rs16 billion money laundering case registered by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as both filed their acquittal applications.
Mr Hamza appeared in the court along with his counsel, but PM Shehbaz sought a one-time exemption from his personal appearance due to official responsibilities.
His counsel told the court that the prime minister was busy in connection with flood relief activities and he could not make it to Lahore.
Presiding Judge Ijaz Hassan observed that the prime minister could have spared a few minutes for the court’s proceedings. However, the counsel said unavoidable official responsibilities did not allow his client to travel to Lahore.
Ramzan Sugar Mills reference against Shehbaz, Hamza returned to NAB
Opening his arguments on the acquittal pleas of the father and son duo, Advocate Pervez contended that there was no likelihood of any conviction in the case. He said Mr Shehbaz had no link to any of the bank accounts as alleged by the FIA.
He said the FIA could not produce a single witness during the last 10 years to establish any relation of the alleged bank accounts with Mr Shehbaz. He pointed out that employees of the companies owned by Mr Shehbaz’s son, Mr Suleman, had not been paid their salaries for over a year since the FIA froze their assets.
At this point, the FIA prosecutor also endorsed the point of the defence to the extent of the problems faced by over thousand employees of the companies — Chiniot Mines and Ramzan Sugar Mills.
The defence counsel further said the challan submitted by the FIA was nothing more than a tale as it was based on assumptions.
The judge issued a formal notice to FIA on the acquittal pleas of the suspects and adjourned further hearing till Sept 17 for arguments.
In this case, the court had already confirmed the interim pre-arrest bail of Mr Shehbaz and Mr Hamza.
Court returns reference to NAB
Meanwhile, an accountability court on Wednesday returned Ramzan Sugar Mills reference against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) with an observation that it lacked jurisdiction to proceed further in the case after recent amendments to the law.
Earlier, Advocate Amjad Pervez, the defence counsel, apprised the court about amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999. He said that NAB, after the new amendments, could not take cognizance of any alleged financial corruption involving money less than Rs500 million.
He pointed out that NAB, in its reference against his clients, made a case of alleged corruption of Rs213 million.
The counsel argued that the accountability court could not hear the reference anymore.
After hearing the defence counsel, Presiding Judge Sajid Ali Awan sent the reference back to NAB for further action.
In this reference, the court had granted permanent exemption to the prime minister from his personal appearance.
During his last appearance in the court, the PM stated that NAB had accused him of misusing public money as the chief minister for the construction of a drain in Chiniot though it had been built on the requisition of a local MPA after cabinet approval.
Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2022