The counsel for the Federal Investigating Agency (FIA) confirmed to a special court in Lahore on Saturday that the agency wanted to arrest Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, in a Rs16 billion money laundering case.

The counsel’s confirmation was in response to presiding judge of the Special Court (Central-I) Ijaz Hassan Awan’s query on whether the FIA wanted to arrest the father-son duo in the case against them and their family.

Both PM Shehbaz and Hamza, whose interim bail was extended till June 4 at the previous hearing, appeared before the court.

At the outset of the hearing, the FIA’s counsel told the judge that half of the prosecution’s team had been barred from reaching the courtroom by security, at which the SP gave assurances that the FIA members stopped by the security would be allowed into the courtroom.

PM Shehbaz and Hamza’s counsel, Amjad Pervaiz, then began his arguments, saying that the case had been investigated for one-and-a-half year and yet no evidence was on record.

Referring to the PTI’s tenure but without naming the party, he said: “There had been worst political engineering in the previous tenure. The Lahore High Court has also declared political engineering a reality.”

The counsel said it had been said a certain Mushtaq Cheeni had been included in the investigation, but he was neither made a witness nor a suspect.

He claimed that the FIA included Shehbaz and Hamza in the investigation while they were in jail and went on the allege that “state machinery was used to suppress opposition leaders in the previous tenure”.

In response, the counsel for the FIA contended that the “suspects had not been included in the investigation”. He did not elaborate whether he was referring to only Shehbaz or Hamza here.

Shehbaz and Hamza’s lawyer argued back that the “suspects had been included in the investigation”, and that “the FIA’s lawyer is making a false statement”.

Continuing his arguments, he said, “There was just one agenda to the previous government: to somehow put them (Shehbaz and Hamza) in jail”.

He denied that Hamza had ever been a director or shareholder of the sugar mills named in the case.

Following that, Hamza and Shehbaz left after taking the court’s permission.

THE CASE: The FIA had in December 2021 submitted the case against Shehbaz and Hamza to a special court for their alleged involvement in laundering 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 has nothing to do with the sugar business (of the Shehbaz family), it claimed. 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.

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