LHC grants bail anew to Shehbaz in wealth case

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LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday approved the post-arrest bail request of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President and National Assembly Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif in the assets beyond means and money laundering case.

The verdict was announced by a three-member full bench constituted by LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan on Monday to decide afresh the request after a division bench gave a split decision on it last week.

Headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi, the bench comprised Justice Alia Neelum and Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi resumed hearing on Wednesday.

The new bench was constituted after the members of the division bench issued a split decision on Shehbaz’s bail petition, sending the matter to the Chief Justice Khan for the nomination of a referee judge.

Justice Sardar Mohammad Sarfraz Dogar, who headed the bench, allowed the petition, while its other member, Justice Asjad Javed Ghural, dismissed the same on merits.

Shehbaz had moved the high court for post-arrest bail in the reference — filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) — in March, five months after he was sent to jail on judicial remand by a trial court.

The dirty money watchdog had arrested Shehbaz in September after the LHC denied him further relief of pre-arrest bail in the case.

In his bail request, Shehbaz alleged the NAB proceedings against him had been prompted by mala fide intention, ulterior motive, and considerations extraneous to law.

He said that the registration of a series of cases in quick succession against him and his repeated arrests at the behest of the government had been a classic example of misuse of the process of NAB to muffle the voice of the opposition.

He also said that the bureau failed to collect any evidence of any corruption, kickbacks, misuse of any public office for personal gain by him throughout his political career.

THE CASE:

Sharif, along with his son Punjab Assembly opposition leader and PML-N Vice President Hamza Shehbaz, was indicted in November in the Rs7 billion reference involving charges of money laundering and assets beyond means.

The reference mainly accuses Shehbaz of being a beneficiary of the assets held in the name of his family members and frontmen, who had no sources to acquire such assets.

It says the family members and the frontmen of the family received fake foreign remittances of billions in their personal bank accounts. In addition to these remittances, the bureau says, billions of rupees were laundered by way of foreign pay orders, which were deposited in the personal bank accounts of Hamza and his brother Suleman Shehbaz.

The reference further says Shehbaz and his family failed to justify the sources of funds used for the acquisition of assets.

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