FIA rejects reports of case withdrawal against PM, Punjab CM

Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Thursday rejected the reports about withdrawal of money laundering case against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz.

The agency clarified that it only submitted an application to change the prosecutor in the high-profile corruption case. The court has the authority to accept or reject the FIA’s plea, as per lawyers.

FIA said the case would be decided by the court and it was fixed for hearing on May 14.

Previously, a Special Court Central-I had summoned Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for May 14 for indictment in the Rs16 billion money laundering case, with directions to the accused to ensure their presence before the court.

“Charges shall be framed and all the accused shall ensure their personal attendance on the next date of hearing,” read the written order issued by the special court judge.

During the proceedings, the counsel for Shehbaz Sharif moved an application seeking exemption from personal appearance. They said the PM was busy due to a cabinet meeting in Islamabad and therefore, he could not appear before the court.

The court accepted the plea but observed, “The indictment could not be made owing to the absence of the Prime Minister.”

The judge made it clear that there was no more possibility of further adjournments in the case and directed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and all other accused to ensure their presence in the court.

Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had booked PM Shehbaz Sharif and his sons, Hamza and Suleman, in November 2020 under sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 34 and 109 of Prevention of Corruption Act and r/w 3/4 of Anti Money Laundering Act.

Suleman Shehbaz is absconding in the UK. The agency also nominated 14 other suspects under Sections 5(2) and 5(3) (criminal misconduct) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

On Jan 27, 2022, Shehbaz Sharif was allowed bail in the case.

The FIA last year in December filed a challan [investigation report] against PML-N president Shehbaz and Hamza to a special court for their alleged involvement in money laundering of Rs16 billion in the sugar scam case.

The FIA report unveiled that 28 benami accounts of Shehbaz Sharif family were detected through which Rs16.3bn was laundered during 2008-18. The FIA investigation also traced a trail of 17,000 credit transactions.

The FIA investigation also revealed that the amount was kept in the hidden accounts and was handed over to Shehbaz in personal capacity.

The FIA had also alleged that the money received from the accounts of low-wage employees by Shehbaz Sharif was transferred outside Pakistan via hundi/hawala networks, ultimately destined for the beneficial use of his family members.

The agency said that the three other co-accused of Sharif group provided their support in the money laundering besides eleven low-paid employees of the Sharif group were also accused of facilitating the Sharif family in the money laundering who held and possessed the laundered proceeds on behalf of the principal accused.

Earlier, it had been reported that the Federal Investigation Agency on Wednesday made the decision not to prosecute Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz in the Rs16 billion money laundering case three days before a special Lahore court is set to frame charges against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders.

According to an application submitted in court, the FIA director general told Special Prosecutor Sikander Zulqarnain Saleem not to appear in court because the “accused in the case are going to be elected the prime minister of Pakistan and chief minister of Punjab”.

“The concerned quarters are not interested to prosecute the accused persons,” the application said, asking that these directions be made part of the case record.

Previously this week, FIA former director Mohammad Rizwan, who had investigated charges against Shehbaz and his son, passed away due to a heart attack.