LAHORE. A banking court in Lahore on Saturday extended the interim bail of PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and his son, Hamza Shehbaz, till October 30 in a Rs25 billion money laundering case, registered by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
The court asked the FIA prosecutor about progress in the investigation. The lawyer told the court that the FIA had sent a questionnaire to Shehbaz, who submitted his responses on Friday. He said the investigation would progress after the FIA reviews Shehbaz’s answers.
Interestingly, the FIA objected to the jurisdiction of the court. The agency said the case could not be heard by a banking court as it had anti-corruption provisions. The judge said the FIA had raised the question of jurisdiction for the first time since registration of the case in November 2020.
The PML-N president sought the court’s permission to clarify that it was the same case in which a London court had “cleared” him. The judge ruled that the hearing on the FIA’s objection to the court’s jurisdiction would be held on October 30. He also extended the bail of both the PML-M leaders till October 30.
Shehbaz’s response to FIA questionnaire
In his response to the FIA’s questions, Shehbaz claimed that he is not associated with business and investments made by his children in the sugar mills that are allegedly involved in money laundering or malpractices.
“I understand and believe that the said tax record is self-sufficient to answer all the questions. I have maintained that I am not a shareholder in the RSML [Ramazan Sugar Mills Limited] and Al-Arabia nor have any role in the respective businesses.
“All my family members are independent, they are not dependent upon me; they are taxpayers and I have nothing to do with their business concerns or other affairs.”
The FIA had asked the PML-N president if he had been “privy to any of the transactions deposited or received from the accounts”.
It wondered that if his answer was no, then how come Rs5 million were received by him from Aurangzeb Butt. It added that the cheques eventually ended up being deposited in the account of Guizar Khan, a deceased peon of the RSML.
“Throughout this period, my clear stance has been that I have nothing to do with the opening and operation of the subject accounts. The allegations of gratification, kickbacks, assets beyond means or money laundering are baseless, false and frivolous.
“Rather, to the contrary, it is a matter of public and judicial record that my family members businesses suffered huge losses running into billions on account of my conscious decisions as [Punjab] chief minister of not granting subsidies on sugar and not reducing the price of sugarcane, despite the same being practiced in other provinces,” he responded.
The PML-N president claimed that he worked tirelessly to save billions of rupees when he was serving as the chief minister. The opposition leader reminded the FIA that during the hearings, he had pleaded innocence and denied the allegations.
Shehbaz Sharif alleged that the investigation team “distorted” his version and “various words and sentences” have been wrongly attributed to him.
“Please note that the nature of allegations in the above said accountability reference and the FIR are similar in pith and substance, my entire property is the subject matter of the accountability reference, which overrides all other laws.
“In this view of the matter, registration of the above said FIR and investigation proceedings under its cover are illegal and without lawful authority,” claimed the opposition leader.