LAHORE: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Tuesday admitted before a trial court that no direct transaction had been made in the bank accounts of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son, former chief minister Hamza Shehbaz, from benami accounts.
The admission came when a special court (central-I), seized with a Rs16 billion money laundering case and acquittal pleas of the premier and his son, asked FIA special prosecutor Farooq Bajwa about the alleged suspected transactions made in the bank accounts included in the challan.
Presiding Judge Ijaz Hassan Awan initially asked the prosecutor how many bank accounts were operated in the name of co-suspect Malik Maqsood Ahmad, a peon in Ramzan Sugar Mills, who died while absconding in the United Arab Emirates.
The prosecutor said eight bank accounts of Maqsood Ahmad had been mentioned in the challan. However, he maintained that there was no evidence of any direct deposit or withdrawal in the bank accounts of Shehbaz and Hamza.
FIA admission comes in money laundering case; counsel argues Shehbaz not shareholder or director at Ramzan Sugar Mills
The prosecutor said Hamza was a shareholder of the sugar mills, but there was no evidence that the transactions made in the bank accounts of the mills’ employees were made on his instructions.
Advocate Amjad Pervez, who represents PM Shehbaz and ex-CM Hamza, argued that no allegation of committing corruption or receiving kickbacks had been levelled against his clients in the challan of the FIA submitted during the tenure of the previous government of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.
He said the whole investigation had been carried out during the stint of the previous government.
“I would leave the court if prosecution shows any statement of its witnesses against Shehbaz or Hamza,” the defence counsel remarked.
He said those who operated the bank accounts had no knowledge about the money deposits.
The prosecutor, however, said the account holders acknowledged that the sugar mills used to operate their accounts.
Asked whether he could state this in writing, the prosecutor told the court that he had no such instructions to file any written statement. He added that whatever he stated was part of the case record.
Continuing his arguments on the acquittal applications of PM Shehbaz, the defence counsel said his client was neither a shareholder nor a director of the Ramzan Sugar Mills. He said Shehbaz received no money from the sugar mills from 2008 to 2018.
The Lahore High Court recently quashed a similar case against PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi, the counsel said presenting a copy of the decision.
The judge adjourned further hearing till Wednesday (today) when the counsel would resume his arguments.
Earlier, the judge allowed a one-time exemption from personal appearance to PM Shehbaz as his counsel stated that the prime minister could not make it to the court due to unavoidable official responsibilities. Ex-CM Hamza, however, appeared before the court.
The FIA had booked Shehbaz and his two 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. Suleman had been declared a proclaimed offender by the court for his constant absence in the trial proceedings.
Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2022