ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) today decided not to prosecute Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz in money laundering case three days ahead of a special court in Lahore is scheduled to frame charges against them.
The FIA has submitted a written application in court, asking Special Prosecutor Sikander Zulqarnain Saleem not to appear in court as the “accused in the case are now elected prime minister of Pakistan and chief minister of Punjab”.
However, an accountability court in Lahore has ordered Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharfi and Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz to physically appear on May 14 to be indicted in money laundering case.
Earlier, the FIA Special Prosecutor Sikandar Zulqarnain informed the court that he has been directed by the agency’s director general to not appear in the court as the “concerned quarters are not interested to prosecute the accused” as they are going to be elected the prime minister and the chief minister of a province
In a hand written application, Zulqarnain requested the court to make these instructions as part of the case.
The court made the application a part of the record and ordered that charges would be framed on the next hearing.
“The concerned quarters are not interested to prosecute the accused persons,” it stated, requesting that these instructions be made part of the case record.
Earlier this week, FIA former director Mohammad Rizwan, who probed the charges against Shehbaz and his son, died of a heart attack.
The FIA had booked PM Shehbaz and his sons, Hamza and Suleman, in November 2020 under sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 34 and 109 of Prevention of Corruption Act and read with 3/4 of Anti Money Laundering Act. Suleman Shehbaz is absconding in the UK.
Fourteen others had also been named in the FIR under sections 5(2) and 5(3) (criminal misconduct) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The special court had on Jan 27 granted pre-arrest bail to Shehbaz and Hamza in the case. After the agency submitted its request yesterday, the court took the application on record and annexed it with the case.
Meanwhile, Saleem said that the prosecution was stopped from appearing in the case as Shehbaz and Hamza had assumed public office now. “FIA officials have expressed no interest in the trial against Shehbaz, Hamza and others,” he added.
The move comes just three days before the court was to indict the premier and the Punjab chief minister on May 14. During the previous hearing, the court had instructed the premier and others to ensure their presence at the next hearing as no further adjournments would be made.
“It is made clear that on [the] next date of hearing, charge[s] shall be framed and all the accused shall ensure their personal attendance,” the written order had said.
Charges against Shehbaz, Hamza
The FIA had in December 2021 submitted the challan against Shehbaz and Hamza to a special court for their alleged involvement in laundering an amount of Rs16 billion in the sugar scam case.
“The investigation team has detected 28 benami accounts of the Shehbaz family through which money laundering of Rs16.3bn was committed during 2008-18. The FIA examined the money trail of 17,000 credit transactions,” according to an FIA report submitted to the court.
The amount was kept in “hidden accounts” and given to Shehbaz in a personal capacity, the report added.
This amount (Rs16bn) has nothing to do with the sugar business (of the Shehbaz family). The money received from the accounts of low-wage employees by Shehbaz was transferred outside Pakistan via hundi/hawala networks, ultimately destined for the beneficial use of his family members, the FIA had alleged.
“Eleven low-paid employees of the Sharif group who ‘held and possessed’ the laundered proceeds on behalf of the principal accused, are found guilty of facilitating money laundering. The three other co-accused of the Sharif group also actively facilitated the money laundering,” the agency had said.