LAHORE: A special court (central-I) on Monday approved unfreezing of bank accounts of eight companies owned by Suleman Shehbaz, a son of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who is a proclaimed offender in a Rs16 billion money laundering case made by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), for the purpose of paying salaries to their employees.

During the hearing, defence counsel Amjad Parvez told the court that the employees of the companies, owned by Suleman, had not been paid their salaries for over a year since the FIA froze their bank accounts.

He said the accounts had nothing to do with PO Suleman as he was only a shareholder and not the owner of the companies.

Abid Rasool Awan, the secretary of the companies, filed an application for the unfreezing of the bank accounts. He submitted that thousands of employees of the companies – Chiniot Mines and Ramzan Sugar Mills — had not been paid their salaries since the FIA froze the bank accounts.

Presiding Judge Ijaz Hassan Awan allowed the application and directed the banks concerned to unfreeze the accounts in question.

The judge also allowed applications of PM Shehbaz and his son former chief minister Hamza Shehbaz for one-time exemption from personal appearance.

The counsel told the court that the prime minister was out of the country on an official tour while Hamza sought exemption on medical grounds.

The court adjourned further hearing till Sept 30 and sought further arguments on the acquittal applications of both suspects –Shehbaz and Hamza.

In this case, the court had already confirmed the interim pre-arrest bail of Shehbaz and Hamza.

The FIA had booked Shehbaz and his sons Hamza and Suleman in November 2020 under sections 419, 420, 468, 471,34 and 109 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, read with Section 3/4 of Anti-Money Laundering Act. The trial court had granted interim bail to Shehbaz and Hamza on June 21, 2021, a day before their first appearance at the FIA.

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2022

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