Shehbaz Sharif testified in a special court


ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday testified in a special court hearing the Rs16 billion money laundering case against him that he refused to receive any salary or benefits when he was chief minister of Punjab, terming himself a "majnoo".

His son Hamza Shehbaz was also in court during the hearing of the case filed against them and their family by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

Presiding judge of the Special Court (Central-I), Ijaz Hassan Awan, had extended their interim bails in the case till May 28 (today) during the hearing last week.

When the hearing resumed, the judge pointed out to FIA prosecutor Farooq Bajwa that the agency's report regarding the arrest of Shehbaz's son, Suleman Shehbaz, and other suspects had contradictory statements.

"On one hand, the report says that D-41, Model Town, is not an address. On the other, it also says the suspect Suleman Shehbaz is abroad," he observed. Bajwa responded that the address did exist but the suspect could not be found at that location.

"It is the fault of the person who wrote [the report]. He wanted to say the suspect was not present at that location."

The judge noted that the report also failed to mention other routine details on Suleman and another suspect Tahir Naqvi.

The FIA prosecutor said the agency would re-issue the arrest warrants and submit a fresh report to the court.

Judge Awan then noted that another suspect, Ghulam Shabbar, had passed away, to which Bajwa replied that the suspect's death certificate was a year old and the inquiry had started prior to his death.

He said he would submit a detailed response.

The judge asked the investigation officer to inform the court about the extent of the investigation conducted with regard to Shabbar. "Apparently, this challan will have to be re-submitted."

Meanwhile, Shehbaz and Hamza's counsel, Mohammad Amjad Pervaiz, argued that the facts in the challan were incorrect. "This case was mala fide because it was politically motivated. The law says if there are 10 cases against someone, he cannot be arrested separately for each."

Prime Minister Shehbaz then took the rostrum and said the case against him was "false".

"I have not taken anything from the government in 12.5 years," he said, adding that he used to get the government car in his use refuelled from his own pocket.

"God has made me the prime minister of this country. I am a majnoo. I did not take my legal right, I did not take salary and benefits."

He recalled that the secretary had sent a summary to him for sugar export during his tenure as Punjab chief minister, adding that he had set an export limit and rejected summaries.

"My family lost Rs2bn because of my decision. I am telling you the reality. When my son's ethanol production plant was being set up, I still decided to impose a duty on ethanol. My family lost Rs800 million annually because of that decision. The previous government withdrew that notification stating that it was injustice with the sugar mills."

Subsequently, the judge gave Shehbaz and Hamza permission to leave, saying the hearing could proceed without their presence.

Their counsel, Pervaiz, argued that the prime minister did not have any connection to the accounts mentioned in the FIA report.

"It is the prosecution's job to prove [his connection] to the benami accounts. The FIA has been unable to bring forth even one statement in 10 years that Shehbaz has any connection to these accounts."

The defence did not yet know whether the prosecution witness statements in the case were true, he said, adding that according to those statements, the accounts were opened for Suleman.

"The witnesses do not say these accounts were Shehbaz's. Mushtaq Cheeni also opened accounts but no FIR was registered against him."

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