Suleman Shehbaz, the son of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, was granted protective bail by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday in two distinct charges of money laundering and acquiring assets outside of known sources of income.
Suleman, who returned to Pakistan two days ago after four years of self-exile in London, is a defendant in a money laundering case filed with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and has been named in an assets-beyond-means reference by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
In both cases, he has been labeled as a proclaimed offender. Suleman’s appeal for protected bail, which would have allowed him to appear in person before a trial court, was heard last week by the IHC, which later prohibited the two agencies from keeping him in the assets-beyond-means reference.
Suleman was directed to appear before the IHC by December 13 after IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq noted that protective bail could not be granted without the accused’s personal presence (today). The IHC today heard his applications for protective bail in each of the two cases individually.
Suleman went before the IHC along with his lawyer Amjad Pervez to request bail in the FIA case. The lawyer informed the IHC that his client would appear before a Lahore-based special court to answer charges of money laundering of Rs16 billion against him.
Suleman’s 14-day protective bail was approved by the judge, who also gave him a deadline in which to appear in front of the appropriate court. Later, Suleman appeared before a division bench made up of Justice Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan and IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq to request protective bail in the NAB reference. Suleman’s protective bail was approved for a 14-day period at the hearing, which was also attended by his lawyer Parvez.
Imran exerted pressure on the ex-FIA chief to target rivals
Suleman said he had returned to Pakistan and presented himself to the court in a statement to the media following the hearing on his bail request in the FIA case. He continued, “The game Imran Khan pursued for the past four years is now known to the globe. He stated that the former premier made an effort to convince Bashir Memon, the former head of the FIA, to target his competitors. Shahzad Akbar is also avoiding capture because to the unfairness he meted out to opponents in politics.
Suleman called the development a “slap on the face” to the PTI head and noted that the UK’s National Crime Agency had also cleared him and his father in a case involving questionable bank transactions.
Cases against Suleman
Shehbaz and his sons Hamza and Suleman were arrested by the FIA in November 2020 for violating the Prevention of Corruption Act’s sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 34, and 109 as well as the Anti-Money Laundering Act’s r/w 3/4. Suleman had been the subject of arrest warrants. However, the FIA had stated in its report provided to the court that the orders could not be carried out because Suleman was not at his house and had left the country.
In July of this year, a trial court had also designated him and another suspect in an Rs16 billion money laundering case as proclaimed offenders. The investigating team “detected 28 Benami accounts of the Shehbaz family, through which money laundering of Rs16.3 billion was committed from 2008 to 2018,” according to the FIA report. A money trail of 17,000 credit transactions was investigated by the FIA.
According to the investigation, the money was “provided to Shehbaz in a personal capacity” and maintained in “secret accounts.” Additionally in June 2020, the NAB seized 10 marlas of agricultural land and 209 kanals of land belonging to Suleman, totaling Rs2 billion in shares in 16 different firms. It also seized Rs4.1 million in cash from three different bank accounts.
Suleman, his brother Hamza Shehbaz, and their father Shehbaz Sharif, according to the NAB, had fraudulently acquired assets worth Rs3.3 billion at the time, the agency claimed. This came after a Lahore accountability court pronounced him an offender in October 2019, according to a NAB prosecutor, after the suspect failed to reply to at least six call-up notices and departed the country to avoid capture.