The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday granted 14-day protective bail to Suleman Shehbaz, son of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who returned to Pakistan two days ago after four years of self-exile in London.

Suleman is an accused in a money laundering case registered with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) while the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has nominated him in an assets-beyond-means reference.

He has been declared a proclaimed offender in both cases.

Last week, the IHC had barred the two authorities from arresting Suleman in the assets-beyond-means reference while hearing his petition for protective bail that would enable him to surrender before a trial court.

However, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq had observed that protective bail could not be granted without the physical presence of the accused and directed Suleman to surrender before the IHC by Dec 13 (today).

During today’s hearing, Suleman appeared before the IHC alongside his lawyer Amjad Pervez. The lawyer told the IHC that his client was to appear before a special court in Lahore, which is hearing the Rs16 billion money laundering case against him.

The judge approved Suleman’s 14-day protective bail and ordered him to appear before the relevant court within the stipulated time.

MEDIA TALK: Speaking to the media outside the IHC, Suleman said he had returned to Pakistan and surrendered before the court. “The game pursued by Imran Khan in the last four years is now known to the world,” he added.

He claimed that the former premier attempted to exert pressure on former FIA chief Bashir Memon to target his rivals. “Shahzad Akbar is also absconding because of the injustice he meted out to [political] opponents.”

Suleman highlighted that the UK’s National Crime Agency had also acquitted him and his father in a case related to suspicious bank transactions, terming the development to be a “slap on the face” of the PTI chief.

DTAILS OF 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 Rs2billion 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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