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Shahbaz Sharif is the ringleader of money laundering group: SAPM Shahzad Akbar

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LAHORE: Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Accountability Shahzad Akbar said the challan submitted by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) against Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N ) leaders Shahbaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz in the Ramzan Sugar Mills money laundering case consists of more than 4,000 documents and 100 witnesses.

Deeming Shahbaz Sharif the ringleader of money laundering group, Akbar said there are seven volumes of evidence in the challan having more than 4,000 documents including banking transactions and more than 100 witnesses.

“The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has also found Shahbaz Sharif involved in money laundering and according to the charge sheet of the FIA, he is the mastermind of the money laundering group”, Akbar said in a press conference.

He said the method of money laundering used in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case was again used in the Ramzan Sugar Mills case. He claimed Shahbaz Sharif got relief in the Hudaiyaba Paper Mills case on technical grounds, not merit.

Akbar said billions of rupees were laundered through the accounts of low-wage employees of Ramazan Sugar Mills who were exploited.

He said Shahbaz Sharif opened 28 accounts for money laundering between 2008 and 2018 which was the tenure he was the chief minister of Punjab. He said the salary certificates of those employees were part of the bank record under the ‘know your customer (KYC)’ regime.

SAPM said the regulators were made ineffective for the malpractice as the Sharif family was in power.

Read more: FIA files challan against Shahbaz for taking Rs5 million bribe

SAPM said the employees have confessed during the investigation that the bank accounts were opened in their names and the cheque books and other things were seized from them. He said account opening was a condition after getting a job at the sugar mill.

Akbar said the Rs16 billion were deposited in the accounts by karyana merchants, school teachers, hardware shops, auto parts dealers, chicken suppliers etc. He said that FIA found during the investigation from the account holders that none of them paid anything to Sharif Group.

SAPM said it is called ‘flying cheques’ technique to launder money, the same method used in Sindh.

Akbar said that the salaries of the employees varied between Rs 5,000 and 30,000 but the transactions in the accounts were worth billions of rupees.

He said a cheque worth Rs5 million was deposited in the account of peon Gulzar Ahmed by a man named Aurangzeb Butt.

The total transactions done in the account are worth over Rs1 billion while adding that the salary of Aurangzeb Butt was around Rs10,000 only.

He said Aurangzeb Butt confessed in an interview in a television programme that he gave this money in the party fund. However, Akbar said the question is how the money given for the party fund went into the account of a peon.

Masroor Anwar, who is a suspect in the case and a personal cashier of Shahbaz Sharif, withdrew this money and deposited it in accounts Shahbaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz, SAPM said.

He added peon Malik Maqsood had seven accounts and transactions worth Rs 3.7 billion were done in it while transactions worth over Rs1.7 billion were carried out from the account of cashier Aslam.

He added that peon Gulzar Ahmed died in 2015 however the transactions continued and Masroor Anwar kept withdrawing the money until 2017-2018.

Read more: Lahore court extends Shehbaz, Hamza’s pre-arrest bail in Ramzan Sugar Mills case

He said no regulator or bank asked anything on such huge transactions, adding it was the same method of laundering money earlier used in Sindh.

He said all Benami accounts were shut down when Shahbaz Sharif ended his tenure as the chief minister.

He added that FIA has submitted its challan and the charge-sheeting process will begin from the next hearing.

He said the corruption has roots in every field including media, adding that everybody has to work together to end it.

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