LAHORE: On Friday, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) interrogated PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif on Rs25 billion money laundering charges against him and his sons at the Kot Lakhpat jail.
Dawn was informed by an official source that an FIA team had been interviewing the opposition leader in the National Assembly for more than two hours in prison. Mr. Sharif was asked about his local and offshore undertakings and alleged dealings in which he was laundering a large amount of money.
“Mr Sharif was unable to provide a satisfactory reply and said that his younger son, Salman Shehbaz (who is absconding in the United Kingdom), manages and can explain the family business in this regard,” the source said, adding that Mr Sharif also said that after consulting his legal team, he would respond to FIA questions in writing.
The FIA team grilled Hamza Shehbaz, Shehbaz’s elder son, for more than three hours on Thursday to seek an answer to similar charges at the Kot Lakhpat prison.
FIA Lahore is probing Shehbaz Sharif, his two sons and others under money laundering, bribery and other charges in connection with the multi-billion rupee sugar scandal. Shehbaz Sharif is suspected of supporting and enabling his sons Hamza and Salman to amass capital disproportionately to their established sources of income (pecuniary resources). Under sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 34 and 109, financial scam, impersonation and forgery, PPC and 5(2) and 5(3) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and r/w 3/4 of the Anti Money Laundering Act, the FIA recently booked them.
The source said both Shehbaz and Hamza were asked by the FIA team to elaborate about a total of Rs25bn earned in bank accounts between 2008 and 2018 from various low-wage employees of Ramzan Sugar Mills and Al-Arabia Sugar Mills and accounts of fake companies set up and operated by the Sharif party.
“The FIA asked: “During the investigation, the low-wage employees of Ramzan Sugar Mills and Al-Arabia Sugar Mills (of the Sharif family) of the Sharif group acknowledged that these accounts were opened and run for Salman Shehbaz’s personal/secret transactions on the orders of Mohammad Usman, CFO of the Sharif group. As confirmation that the money from undisclosed sales of sugar invested in these accounts is only Rs3.95bn, Mushtaq Cheeni has issued confidential ledgers, suggesting that the remaining source of funds is external to the sugar sector.
Neither Shehbaz nor Hamza could clarify who had managed these accounts, the official source said. In the cases of money laundering and income above capital defined by the National Accountability Bureau, both father and son were in Kot Lakhpat prison (NAB).
In NAB’s Rs7 billion reference for money laundering and properties beyond means, Shehbaz Sharif, Hamza Shehbaz and eight other suspects were indicted by an accountability court last month. Via her pleader, Shehbaz’s daughter Javeria Ali was also charged, though four members of Shehbaz’s family had not entered the court proceedings. These are Nusrat, Shehbaz’s wife, his mother, Shehbaz, and Haroon Yousaf’s son-in-law. Nusrat Shebaz, Rabia Imran, Shebaz’s daughter, and Salman Shehbaz and Haroon were declared absconders.
Shehbaz was largely accused by the comparison of being a beneficiary of properties kept on behalf of his family members and benamidars, who did not have the means to accumulate those assets. It was said that the members of the Shehbaz family and benamidars received bogus international remittances of billions in their personal bank accounts. In addition to these remittances, the NAB reported that by way of international pay orders, billions of rupees were laundered and deposited into Hamza and Salman’s personal bank accounts.
The sources of funds used for the purchase of properties were not justified by Shehbaz and his relatives, the NAB said.
In response to the FIA’s investigation against the Sharif family, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the FIA had been tasked to go after Shehbaz Sharif and his family members after the collapse of the ‘NAB-Niazi alliance.’
Following a failure by the NAB-Niazi Alliance to prove corruption allegations against Shehbaz and his family members, the FIA was ordered to take up this mission. Like NAB, the FIA will also struggle to prosecute the Sharif family as it has never committed a single corruption of the rupee,’ she added.