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Court allows FIA to withdraw witnesses in money laundering case against Shehbaz, Hamza

Legal experts believe that if it is established that MCB has pressurized its bankers and harassed them from testifying against Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz, then Mian Mansha and his bank both may be in trouble

A judicial magistrate on Thursday allowed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to withdraw its witnesses’ list against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz President Shahbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shahbaz in a Rs25 billion money laundering case after Muslim Commercial Bank harassed them to testify in their favour.

Judicial Magistrate Mohammad Kamran Zafar stated, “The investigators may move the application as and when they feel it appropriate.”

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He further allowed the agency to withdraw its witnesses from testifying before the court.

As the proceedings commenced, the counsel for Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) moved an application before the court, pleading that Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB), owned by prominent businessman Mian Mansha, harassed the bankers from testing before the court in the money laundering case against PML-N president and his son Hamza Shehbaz.

In its plea, FIA told the court that MCB Bank was interfering in the investigation of the money laundering case against Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz and harassing them either to ‘turn hostile or stay mum’.  The counsel further said that the bank was deliberately doing all this which was tantamount to creating hurdles in the way of an independent investigation.

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The FIA also told the judge that they arrested a top MCB banker named Asim Suri and requested the court to grant arrest warrants for another MCB official, Azhar Mahmood, who is also a retired FIA official, for alleged interference into the investigation and harassment of witnesses to testify in the favour of the accused.

So far, six bankers from the long list of 17 witnesses have recorded their statement under Section 164 of The Code of Criminal Procedure against both Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz. The record shows that 13 witnesses in the FIA list work with Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB).

FIA booked Shehbaz Sharif and members of his family during its investigation of a sugar scam last year in November under charges of money laundering through fake accounts of poor employees of Ramzan Sugar Mill. Most of the accounts allegedly used for money laundering were opened with MCB Bank.

After encountering constant interference into FIA’s investigation against money laundering, FIA DIG Muhammad Rizwan had warned MCB Chairman Mian Mansha through a letter, asking him to stay away from exerting any pressure on the witnesses. He had told him that the witnesses had the same evidence.

“Strict action will be taken if MCB continues to pressurize its bankers from testifying in the case,” the letter quoted the DIG as saying.

FIA Assistant Director Ali Mardan Shah moved another plea that it would be a mockery of justice if the relevant bank did not provide a free and fair environment to the bankers to testify in the case.

The FIA officials pleaded with the court that the agency would request the court when the banks provided evidence and corroborated the investigation.

They asked the court to grant it permission to withdraw the list of witnesses it had submitted earlier to record statements in the money laundering case against Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz.

“It is most humbly prayed that the permissions to record statements of witnesses u/s 164 CrPC granted by this Honorable Court vide orders dated 16-09-2021 6 17-09-2021 may kindly be withdrawn, without prejudice,” the plea was quoted as saying.

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