Thursday, June 30, 2022

Pakistan’s FIA seeks arrests of PM Shehbaz, son in money-laundering case; court extends bail

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Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which is probing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son and Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz in a multi-billion rupees (Pakistani rupees) money-laundering case, on June 4 requested the court to allow their arrest for further investigation. The court, however, extended their pre-arrest bail until June 11.

The FIA also filed an interim investigation report against the premier and other suspects in the ₹ 14 billion ($ 75 million) money laundering case against them.

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Mr. Shehbaz and Mr. Hamza appeared before the Special Court amidst high security.

“An FIA prosecutor submitted an interim investigation report in the court and sought arrest of prime suspects – Prime Minister Shehbaz and Punjab Chief Minister Hamza – arguing that their custody is needed for further probe in the case as they have not joined the investigation and cooperated with investigators,” a court official told PTI.

The prime minister’s counsel Advocate Amjad Pervez strongly objected to the FIA’s plea and termed it a “false assertion of the agency”.

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He said that the FIA had already investigated the father and the son when they were in jail in Lahore.

He said that his clients had not only joined the investigation when they were in jail but also appeared before the investigators at the FIA office.

“The case is pending for the last one-and-a-half-year and investigation against Mr. Shehbaz and Mr. Hamza by the FIA has been completed,” Mr. Pervez argued.

He further said that this case has been politically motivated which was instituted by the previous government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf with only one aim to send them behind bars.

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In the hearing last week, Mr. Shehbaz had told the court: “What to talk about money laundering allegations against me, I never received salary and other perks when I was chief minister of Punjab for 10 years or so. God has made me the prime minister of this country. This case of money laundering has been instituted against me and my sons on political grounds as money laundering charges against us have no basis and evidence.” Presiding judge Ijaz Awan reissued the arrest warrant for the premier’s other son Suleman Shehbaz in the case and adjourned the hearing till June 11. Mr. Suleman has been absconding in the U.K. since 2019.

Ousted prime minister Imran Khan had questioned the presence of Mr. Suleman in the delegation of Mr. Shehbaz that called on the Turkish president this week in Ankara.

Mr. Shehbaz and his sons – Hamza and Suleman – were booked by the FIA in November 2020 under various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Anti Money Laundering Act.

The FIA investigation has said that it has detected 28 benami accounts, allegedly of the Shehbaz family, through which an amount of 14 billion Pakistani Rupees was laundered from 2008 to 2018.

The FIA examined the money trail of 17,000 credit transactions.

The amount was kept in “hidden accounts” and given to Mr. Shehbaz in his personal capacity, according to the charges.

Mr. Imran, since his ouster as premier, has been targeting Mr. Shehbaz questioning as how a person facing money laundering charges can become the prime minister.

He calls Mr. Shehbaz “Crime Minister” and vows to continue his struggle to send what he terms “imported government” home. He has also blamed the U.S. for ending his government after he chose to visit Russia against its wish.

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