LAHORE: In a significant development, the Special Court in central Lahore has acquitted all the accused, including Suleiman Shahbaz, son of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, in a long-standing money laundering case. The court proceedings involved hearings on pleas for the acquittal of the accused, with Suleiman Shahbaz himself appearing before the court.
During the hearing, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) provided answers to 27 questions pertaining to the case. Judge Bakht Fakhr Behzad inquired about the party responsible for initiating the money laundering inquiry, to which the FIA lawyer responded that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), headed by Dr. Rizwan, conducted the inquiry. The judge further questioned whether the FIA had obtained a statement from any witnesses during the investigation. The FIA investigating officer remained silent on this matter.
Concerns were raised by the court regarding actions taken against individuals who had changed their positions during the investigation. In response, the investigating officer stated that no action had been taken in this regard. Judge Behzad also demanded to know if there was any concrete evidence in the FIA’s seven-volume report. He cautioned against providing narratives and stressed the need for a straightforward answer, asserting that he would send all FIA personnel to jail if necessary. The judge specifically sought evidence of guilt in the Chalan (charge sheet).
Amjad Parvez, the lawyer representing Suleiman Shahbaz, stated that he had repeatedly emphasized the absence of a case. The court, however, did not mention the source of pressure leading to the case being filed.
The prosecutor admitted that there was no direct evidence establishing Suleiman Shahbaz as the account holder, but argued that his status as a suspect was based on the available information. The court questioned whether the FIA had the authority to investigate the case, to which a former FIA officer responded that the investigation had been conducted under the Money Laundering Act.
When asked if any institutions had filed complaints regarding remittances, the FIA prosecutor asserted that the FIA possessed the necessary powers to conduct money laundering inquiries. The former FIA officer stated that the action had been taken based on the findings of the sugar inquiry commission.
In response to the court’s query about the number of sugar mills involved, the former FIA officer clarified that the investigation had targeted all sugar mills in Pakistan. The former federal government had called for action against the sugar mills owned by Jahangir Trine, the khosrowfamily, and the Sharif family.
The court sought information regarding actions taken against the khosrowfamily and Jahangir Taryn, but the former FIA officer was unable to confirm whether investigations had been conducted in those cases.
When questioned about the basis for filing the case, the former FIA officer stated that the Joint Investigation Team had recommended prosecution. The officer highlighted the presence of individuals with low salaries as a contributing factor for initiating the case.
Ultimately, the court acquitted all the accused, including Suleiman Shahbaz, in the money laundering case. Speaking to the media outside the court, Suleiman Shahbaz expressed gratitude that the truth had finally been brought to light after seven years. He acknowledged that, by the grace of Allah, their family had also been subjected to scrutiny.