The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Saturday cleared Suleman Shehbaz, the son of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, in the Rs16 billion sugar scam case, citing a “lack of evidence”.

The FIA granted absolution to the prime minister’s son in an application submitted in Lahore’s special court, which took up a plea filed by Suleman seeking bail in the case.

Suleman, who returned to Pakistan on Dec 11 after four years of self-exile in London, was accused in Rs16bn money laundering case registered with the FIA while the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had nominated him in an assets-beyond-means reference.

He was declared a proclaimed offender in both cases.

Prior to his return, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had restrained the NAB and FIA from arresting him.

Suleman was accompanied by his counsel Amjad Parvez on Saturday to the special court.

As the proceedings commenced, the FIA submitted that the agency could not find any evidence against Suleman in the case that it had been investigating for months.

Following the FIA submission, Suleman and another co-accused Tahir Naqvi withdrew their bail applications.

The hearing was adjourned until Feb 4.

A couple of months ago, a special court of Lahore had acquitted PM Shehbaz and his elder son Hamza in this case. The FIA had booked Shehbaz and his sons in November 2020 under sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 34 and 109 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, read with section 3/4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

Suleman and another co-suspect had been declared proclaimed offenders by the court for their constant absence from proceedings.

The cases

The FIA had booked 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 r/w 3/4 of Anti Money Laundering Act.

Arrest warrants had been issued for Suleman. However, in its report submitted to the court, the FIA had stated that the warrants could not be executed since Suleman was not present at his address and had gone abroad.

A trial court had also declared him a proclaimed offender, along with another suspect in a Rs16 billion money laundering case, in July this year.

According to the FIA report, the investigation team “detected 28 benami accounts of the Shehbaz family through which money laundering of Rs16.3bn was committed from 2008-18. The FIA examined a money trail of 17,000 credit transactions.”

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

Also in June 2020, the NAB seized Suleman’s shares amounting to Rs2 billion in 16 companies along with cash worth Rs4.1 million held in three bank accounts as well as 10 marlas agricultural land and pieces of land spreading over 209 kanals.

The NAB had also alleged that assets worth Rs3.3b had been identified back then as illegally accumulated by Suleman, his brother Hamza Shehbaz and their father Shehbaz Sharif.

This was after an accountability court in Lahore declared him a proclaimed offender in October 2019 after a NAB prosecutor said the bureau had issued at least six call-up notices to the suspect, but he did not respond and fled the country to avoid investigation.

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