The indictment of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son, former Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, in a Rs16 billion money laundering case was delayed again on Wednesday after the premier and ex-CM filed fresh petitions seeking acquittal in the case.

They have already been granted pre-arrest bail in the case registered against them.

The special court of Lahore had summoned the duo to frame the charges today, however, the prime minister’s lawyer Amjad Pervez requested on his client’s behalf a one-day exemption from appearance citing his busy schedule in Islamabad due to flood-related activities.

PM’s counsel Pervez and Hamza’s lawyer Muhammad Aurangzeb appeared before the court today.

The premier and the former Punjab chief minister filed separate pleas seeking acquittal in the graft case.

“Mr Shehbaz Sharif cannot appear in court today due to important government engagements, hence the request for one day’s exemption should be granted. FIA has nominated respondents in a baseless case,” Pervez told the court.

Pervez said Pakistan had never witnessed such devastating floods. “All government departments and officials led by the prime minister are busy monitoring relief activities.”

The judge observed that sparing 10 minutes for a hearing was not so difficult.

The counsel responded that it was necessary for his client to visit Lahore for the hearing.

Hamza, on the other hand, showed up at the court.

The lawyers contended that there was no chance of conviction in the case and sought their clients’ acquittal from the graft case.

Under court orders, the accounts of the companies had also been frozen, PM Shehbaz’s lawyer said, urging the court to issue orders to unfreeze them.

The FIA’s counsel, who was present in the hearing, told the court that the agency had no objection to unfreezing the accounts.

After hearing arguments, the court issued a notice to the FIA and sought its response.

The hearing was adjourned till Sep 17.

The case

The FIA had in December 2021 submitted the challan against Shehbaz and Hamza to a special court for their alleged involvement in laundering an amount of Rs16bn 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 (Rs16bn) 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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