LAHORE: A Pakistani court here on Saturday extended the pre-arrest bail of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son and Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz until May 21 in the Rs 14 billion money laundering case.
The indictment of the prime minister and his son was delayed because the premier was in London and could not attend the hearing. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) special court in Lahore accepted Shehbaz Sharif’s application seeking exemption from personal appearance on Saturday as he was in London “for his medical tests”.
Shehbaz, during his visit to London, met a self-exiled Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader and his elder brother Nawaz Sharif, and sought guidance regarding the challenges his coalition government faces back home. Hamza however appeared before the court.
According to an FIA prosecutor, an indictment in the case cannot be made without the presence of the suspects in the court.
“Both father and son may be indicted in the FIA’s money laundering case on May 21 if Prime Minister Shehbaz and Punjab Chief Minister Hamza make their presence in the court at the next hearing,” a court official told PTI.
The Sharifs have denied any wrongdoing and have alleged that the cases against them were politically motivated by the previous government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan. Shehbaz’s lawyer Amjad Pervez told the court that his client was a cancer survivor and a patient of chronic backache.
Parvez told the court that his medical checkup had long been overdue since the previous government led by Khan did not allow him to go abroad. He assured the court that Shehbaz will attend the next hearing.
“The agency has no objection to the application and pointed out that the presence of all the suspects is necessary for indictment,” said new FIA prosecutor Farooq Bajwa, who assumed charge on Friday.
Judge Ijaz Hasan Awan observed that the proceedings cannot move forward because of the exemption application.
Shehbaz and his sons “Hamza and Suleman” were booked by the FIA in November 2020 under various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Anti Money Laundering Act. Suleman is absconding and residing in the UK.
The FIA investigation has detected 28 benami accounts, allegedly of the Shehbaz family, through which an amount to the tune of PKR 14 billion was laundered from 2008 until 2018. The FIA examined the money trail of 17,000 credit transactions and the amount was kept in “hidden accounts” and given to Shehbaz in his personal capacity.