The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) submitted its investigation report at the Westminster Magistrate Court on Monday, requesting to quash its earlier order of freezing the bank accounts of PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and his son Suleman Shehbaz.
These accounts were frozen in December 2019 at the joint request of Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) led by Adviser to Prime Minister on Accountability Shehzad Akbar.
The Pakistani government’s ARU, in a letter written to the National Crime Agency UK on December 11, 2019, had levelled serious corruption allegations against Shehbaz and his son Suleman.
The NAB and the ARU had claimed that former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz and his son were involved in “double criminality” and money laundering of more than Rs35 billion.
Double criminality involves laundering ill-gotten money and later bringing it back to the same country.
The allegations of fraud, criminal conduct and money laundering were levelled and consequently, five accounts were frozen by the NCA in December 2019.
The NCA probed the five accounts for around two years through its International Command Unit investigating the accounts and transactions in the UK, Dubai and Pakistan.
In their report submitted to the Westminster Magistrate Court, the NCA acknowledged that it could not find any proof of criminal conduct yet, requesting to set aside the accounts freezing orders.
Reacting to the development, Shehbaz took to his official Twitter handle to express his delight over today’s decision. He said the decision was not just his or his elder brother Nawaz Sharif’s vindication but that of Pakistan too. “Certainly truth has greater power than all the lies, fabricated stories & character assassination!,” he tweeted.
I bow my head before Allah in all humility & with feelings of profound gratitude. Today’s decision by UK court is not just my or Nawaz Sharif’s vindication but that of Pakistan too. Certainly truth has greater power than all the lies, fabricated stories & character assassination!
— Shehbaz Sharif (@CMShehbaz) September 27, 2021
There is a separate civil case still in process in which David Rose, a Daily Mail journalist alleged that Shehbaz as Punjab CM had embezzled the funds of the Department for International Development (DFID), UK.
Meanwhile, Shahzad Akbar refuted reports of “acquittal” of Shehbaz and Suleman in the money laundering case from the London court.
In a series of messages from his Twitter handle, Akbar said the report about the alleged acquittal of Shehbaz and his son was incorrect.
“The investigation by the NCA against Suleman Shahbaz and some of his family members was not initiated at the request of [Asset Recovery Unit] ARU or NAB,” he said, adding that it was the result of a suspicious transaction reported by a bank to the NCA.
He maintained that funds were transferred by Suleman from Pakistan to UK in 2019 which were declared suspicious by the UK authorities. He said the NCA secured an asset freezing order from the court against these funds.
However, he said that recently NCA decided to stop investigating these funds and therefore agreed to release these funds through the court.
Akbar further clarified that such a release order was not an acknowledgment that funds were from a legitimate source.
It is clarified that there is no acquittal of any sort as reported as there was no trial! funds were frozen by NCA and NCA has decided to not investigate these funds anymore.
Suleiman Shabaz remains a fugitive in a money laundering case against him and his father before AC LHR
— Mirza Shahzad Akbar (@ShazadAkbar) September 27, 2021
“There is no acquittal of any sort as reported as there was no trial! Funds were frozen by [the] NCA and NCA has decided to not investigate these funds anymore,” he said adding that Suleman remains a fugitive in a money laundering case against him and his father before the accountability court in Lahore.
Responding to Akbar, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb maintained that a “UK court had acquitted Shehbaz and his family from the ‘baseless’ allegations of money laundering and corruption leveled by [PM] Imran Khan”.
(With input from APP)