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Money laundering case: Court rules further investigation required to prove corruption, misuse of power

Judge holds IO made no mention of whether custody of PM Shehbaz and CM Hamza required for investigation

A special court on Monday released a detailed written order in a Rs16 billion money laundering case, holding that further investigation was required to prove corruption and misuse of power

Special Court Central-I Judge Ijaz Hassan Awan decided the case after hearing arguments of both the prosecution and the defense sides in the said case.

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The judge held that there was no evidence yet over the allegations of corruption and misuse of powers, pointing out that further investigation was required into the allegations levelled against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, his son Punjab Chief Minister and other suspects.

Awan also held that the investigation officer did not mention anywhere that custody of Prime Minister Shehbaz and his son Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz was required for investigation.

“Prima facie, the allegations about gratification, corrupt practice, abuse of official authority, kickbacks and commission requires further probe during trial as cogent evidence is not available,” read the 22-page detailed judgment.

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The judge observed, “Although, FIR was lodged on 14-11-2020 but FIA did not submit any interim challan till 12-12-2021,” and pointed out that “one politician gave cheque amounting to Rs14 million personally to Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif petitioner in lieu of party ticket but neither name of the said politician has been mentioned in the FIR nor any documentary evidence in support of allegations of Rs14 billion is available on the record,” read the judgment.

The court ruled that “without the commission of predicate offence, there can be no offence of money laundering”.

It also held that, “As per contents of FIR, the said politician failed to make any statement in writing. No such politician has been made witness in this case, the judgment stated.

The court ruled that the FIA referred to the statement of one Alamzeb but did not rely on it and the said fact was also concealed by the special prosecutor of the agency during the arguments.

The judgment also pointed out that according to the record, Mian Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz were joined into investigation in central jail twice; first on December 18, 2020 and the second time on January 8, 2021 when they were in jail under a NAB reference. However, their arrest was not affected in this case, it added.

“And there has been complete silence on the part of FIA for a period of about five months since the investigation team visited Central jail,” ruled the court, exposing the role of the FIA.

“Till date, the Investigation Officer (IO) did not write that custody of Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz is required for investigation in the matter,” Judge Awan held. The court ruled that the special prosecutor of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the investigation officer also admitted the fact of not arresting the father and son duo and other suspects.

The court added that although Hamza Shahbaz was the CEO of the Ramzan Sugar Mills, the prosecution was not able to prove that the accounts – used to launder money — were opened on his orders.

The allegation about gratification, corrupt practice, abuse of official authority, and commission requires further probe during the trial as at this stage cogent evidence is not available,” the order said.

“The allegations against Masroof Anwar and 14 other suspects are also yet to be established,” the court ruled, holding that with confirmation of bails of the main accused the arrest of the co-accused in the case would not serve any purpose.

The judge, however, made it clear that “observations made in bail granting order are only tentative in nature and would have no effect on the merits of the case and trial.”

The court also confirmed bail of 14 other co-accused, holding that dismissing their bail pleas and sending them to jail would not serve any useful purpose.

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