Never received salary as chief minister, says PM Shahbaz

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Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (L) and Chief Minister of Punjab Hamza Shahbaz. — AFP/Twitter/File

LAHORE: Flatly denying money laundering allegations, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif informed the court on Saturday that he never received his salary, TA and DA from the national pool which is around Rs70 to Rs80 million , and asked if he would launder just 2.5 million rupees.

The Prime Minister presented the arguments as the Special Court (Central-I) resumed hearing of a Rs 16 billion money laundering case against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, his son the Chief Minister of Punjab Hamza Shahbaz and others.

Strict security measures were put in place and the court premises were evacuated before the arrival of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Punjab CM Hamza Shahbaz.

During the proceedings, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said, “In this case, I am charged with laundering 2.5 million rupees.” The prime minister said his family suffered Rs 2 billion but he did not give subsidies to promote sweets. Later, he and CM Hamza Shahbaz left the courtroom after getting permission from the judge.

“Politically motivated affair”

At the start of today’s hearing, Amjad Pervaiz, the lawyer for Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, argued that the Rs 16 billion money laundering case was ‘politically motivated’ and ‘based on intentions of bad faith” because the PTI government wanted to imprison its client.

During the last hearing on May 21, the special court issued an arrest warrant against Suleman Shehbaz, the son of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. He also gave Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz until May 28 to post bail.

Amjad Pervaiz argued that the prime minister has nothing to do with accounts opened or closed over the past 10 years.

However, the burden of proof in this case lies with the prosecution, argued Amjad Pervaiz.

He maintained that the objective of the PTI-led government was to imprison Shehbaz Sharif and that this [money laundering] the matter is in bad faith because it is politically motivated. “The facts in the challan submitted by the FIA ​​were incorrect.”

Referring to the law, the lawyer said that if there were 10 cases against someone, then he would not be arrested separately in each case.

“The [previous] government knew that this case could not be proven in court,” the lawyer said, adding that the courts had returned their verdicts in favor of his client.

Defects in the report

At the start of today’s hearing, a report on the arrest of the co-defendants in the case, Suleman Shehbaz, Tahir Naqvi, Malik Maqsood and Ghulam Shabbar was presented in court.

“Contradictory reports have been received regarding the arrest of the suspect in this case,” observed Special Court (Central-I) Judge Ijaz Hassan Awan.

The judge noted that “the report indicates that the 41D address of Model Town does not exist”, adding that it also stated that the suspect, Suleman Shehbaz, was out of the country.

To this, FIA prosecutor Farooq Bajwa said it was a mistake. The author wanted to write that the suspect was not present at the address.

“Where is the investigating officer who prepared this report?” asked the judge.

The prosecutor asked the court for permission to send a new report on this subject.

Highlighting the flaws in the report, the judge noted that the report says the co-defendant, Ghulam Shabbar, is deceased, while at the same time it also says he was questioned.

The judge noted that a challan had been submitted about a deceased person and ordered the officer to submit a new challan after removing all material related to Ghulam Shabbar.

At this point, the FIA ​​official told the court that the suspect’s death certificate dated back a year and that the investigation had begun before his death.

Bajwa said he would submit a detailed response on this.

The case

In December 2021, the FIA ​​had submitted the challan against Shehbaz and Hamza before the special court for their alleged involvement in the laundering of an amount of Rs16 billion in the sugar scam case.

According to the FIA ​​report submitted to the court, the investigation team “detected 28 Benami accounts of the Shehbaz family through which money laundering of Rs 16.3 billion was committed in 2008-18. FIA examined the financial trail of 17,000 credit transactions.

The report added that the amount was kept in “hidden accounts” and given to Shehbaz personally.

This amount (16 billion rupees) has nothing to do with the sugar trade (of the Shehbaz family), he claimed. Money received from the accounts of low-wage employees by Shehbaz was transferred out of Pakistan via hundi/hawala networks, ultimately intended for the beneficial use of his family members, according to the FIA.

“Eleven poorly paid employees of the Sharif Group who ‘held and possessed’ the proceeds laundered on behalf of the main defendant, are found guilty of facilitating the money laundering. The other three co-defendants of the Sharif Group also actively facilitated the laundering money,” the agency said.

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