Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday testified before a special court hearing the Rs 16 billion money laundering case against him that he refused to receive a salary or benefits when he was chief minister of Punjab , calling himself “majnoo“.
His son, the outgoing Chief Minister of Punjab, Hamza Shehbaz, was also present in court during the hearing of the case filed against them and their family by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
The Presiding Judge of the Special Court (Central-I), Ijaz Hassan Awan, had extended their provisional bonds in the case until May 28 (today) during the hearing last week.
When the hearing resumed, the judge pointed out to FIA prosecutor Farooq Bajwa that the agency’s report regarding the arrest of Shehbaz’s son, Suleman Shehbaz, and other suspects contained conflicting statements.
“On the one hand, the report indicates that D-41, Model Town, is not an address. On the other hand, it also indicates that the suspect Suleman Shehbaz is abroad,” he observed. . Bajwa replied that the address existed but the suspect could not be found there.
“It’s the fault of whoever wrote [the report]. He meant that the suspect was not present there.”
The judge noted that the report also did not mention other routine details about Suleman and another suspect, Tahir Naqvi.
The FIA prosecutor said the agency would re-issue the arrest warrants and submit a new report to the court.
Judge Awan then noted that another suspect, Ghulam Shabbar, had died, to which Bajwa replied that the suspect’s death certificate was a year old and that the investigation had begun before his death.
He said he would submit a detailed response.
The judge asked the investigator to inform the court of the extent of the investigation carried out with regard to Shabbar. “Apparently that chalan will have to be resubmitted.”
Meanwhile, Shehbaz and Hamza’s lawyer, Mohammad Amjad Pervaiz, argued that the facts of the case chalan were incorrect. “This case was in bad faith because it was politically motivated. The law says if there are 10 cases against someone, they cannot be arrested separately for each one.”
Prime Minister Shehbaz then took the podium and said the accusation against him was “false”.
“I haven’t taken anything from the government for 12 and a half years,” he said, adding that he used to refuel the government car he used out of his own pocket.
“God made me the prime minister of this country. I’m a majnoo. I didn’t take my legal right, I didn’t take salary and benefits.”
He recalled that the secretary had sent him a summary for the export of sugar during his tenure as chief minister of Punjab, adding that he had set an export limit and rejected the summaries.
“My family lost 2 billion rupees because of my decision. I tell you the reality. When my son’s ethanol plant was established, I still decided to impose a tax on the fuel. “ethanol. My family lost 800 million rupees a year because of this decision. The previous government withdrew this notification saying it was an injustice to sweets.”
Afterwards, the judge allowed Shehbaz and Hamza to leave, saying the hearing could proceed without their presence.
Shehbaz’s lawyer, Pervaiz, argued that the prime minister had no connection to the accounts mentioned in the FIA report.
“It’s the job of the prosecution to prove [his connection] to Benami accounts. The FIA has not been able to make a single statement in 10 years that Shehbaz has any connection to these accounts.”
The defense did not yet know whether the statements of prosecution witnesses in the case were true, he said, adding that according to those statements, the accounts were opened for Suleman.
“Witnesses do not say that these accounts were those of Shehbaz. Mushtaq Cheeni also opened accounts but no FIRs were registered against him.”
He claimed that no case had ever been filed against Mushtaq because he had never held public office.
The lawyer further said that the bank account opening form did not mention anywhere that it was Prime Minister Shehbaz.
To this, the court asked if the challan had mentioned Chaudhry Sugar Mills, owned by the Sharif family.
The lawyer replied that the chalan mentioned Chaudhry Sugar Mills, as well as Al-Arabia Sugar Mills, which is owned by Prime Minister Shehbaz’s son, Salman.
He went on to say that the FIA had told “stories in the challan, to which no evidence was attached”.
In addition, “the FIA recorded the statements of many people, but it made neither witnesses nor suspects”, added the lawyer.
He said Muhammad Maqsood was accused of carrying out a transaction worth Rs 3.4 billion. “[But] none of his accounts, except his salary account, were on Ramzan Sugar Mills’ notepad.”
“Ninety-eight percent of the transactions on his account were not made in cash but through transfer entries,” the lawyer said, adding that no money was ever transferred to the Premier. Minister Shehbaz from Maqsood’s account.
“According to records, Muhammad Maqsood used to produce his statements and if we consider him a Benami [holder]it would then be necessary to see under which law it is a crime, ”explained the lawyer.
He added that Maqsood was not a public office holder, and “look at this matter in any way, if his association is established with Shehbaz Sharif, I will recuse myself from this matter.”
The lawyer alleged that the FIA investigation team had built the case while “sitting in a room”, adding that the 64 witnesses in the case had spoken of “usual market practice “.
“The FIA should have investigated every entry. They talk about 4 billion rupees but according to the records, 50 million rupees was transferred to Maqsood’s account,” he said, adding that “the issuance of ‘a check for a third party was standard practice’.
Following this, the court ordered the FIA lawyer to remove the flaws from the challan, pointing out that the names of the suspects were not accompanied by the names of their fathers.
“The FIA was in a hurry to submit the challan. They submitted it with the faults,” the court noted.
The court adjourned the hearing after extending Prime Ministers Shehbaz and Hamza’s bail until June 4 and ordered Hamza’s lawyer to present his case at the next hearing.
Accusations against Hamza, Shehbaz
The FIA had in December 2021 submitted the chalan against Shehbaz and Hamza in a special court for their alleged involvement in laundering Rs 16 billion in the sugar scam case.
“The investigation team detected 28 Benami Shehbaz family accounts through which money laundering of Rs 16.3 billion was committed in 2008-2018. The FIA examined the financial trail of 17,000 credit transactions,” according to an FIA report submitted to the court.
The amount was kept in “hidden accounts” and given to Shehbaz personally, the report added.
This amount (16 billion rupees) has nothing to do with the sugar trade (of the Shehbaz family), he claimed. Money received from the accounts of low-wage employees by Shehbaz was transferred out of Pakistan through hundi/hawala networks, ultimately intended for the beneficial use of his family members, according to the FIA.
“Eleven poorly paid employees of the Sharif Group who ‘held and possessed’ the proceeds laundered on behalf of the main defendant, are found guilty of facilitating the money laundering. The other three co-defendants of the Sharif Group also actively facilitated the laundering money,” the agency said.