Govt, PML-N conflict over UK court’s structure on Sharifs

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LAHORE: A UK court has ordered unfreezing of the bank accounts of PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif and his son Suleman Shehbaz after the country’s National Crime Agency (NCA) didn’t find evidence regarding ‘suspicious bank transactions’ against them.

According to news reports, the NCA had conducted a 17-month long probe during which it examined Shehbaz Sharif’s financial transactions over the past 20 years.

It said that no evidence of cash laundering or criminal activities against the PML-N president or his family was found.

The NCA submitted the investigation report back to the Westminster court during which it said that Shehbaz and his son weren’t involved in concealment practices in Pakistan, Dubai and therefore the UK.

The NCA had initiated the probe after Pakistan’s Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) had shared evidence with the united kingdom crime agency.

Shehbaz’s and his son’s bank accounts were frozen in December 2019 by the NCA following a UK writ.

The PML-N hailed the choice , calling it a humiliation for Prime Minister Imran Khan who peddled the corruption and concealment allegations against the Sharif family.

While reacting to the event , Mirza Shahzad Akbar, adviser to the prime minister on accountability and interior, claimed that only the bank accounts of Shehbaz and Suleman had been unfrozen following the NCA’s report which that they had not been acquitted of cash laundering charges.

“Certain funds transferred by Suleman Shehbaz from Pakistan to the united kingdom in 2019 were declared suspicious transactions by the united kingdom authorities and NCA secured an asset freezing order (AFO) from court against these funds. However, recently NCA decided to prevent investigating these funds and thus agreed for release of those funds through court,” Akbar said during a series of tweets.

“The news about the alleged acquittal of Shehbaz Sharif or his son Suleman travel by one news channel is wrong and misreporting. it had been results of a suspicious transaction reported by a bank to NCA. The investigation by the NCA against Suleman Shehbaz and a few of his relations wasn’t initiated at the request of Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) or National Accountability Bureau (NAB),” tweeted Akbar, who had been keeping a coffee profile for the last few months.

“It is clarified that such a release order (by court) isn’t an acknowledgement that funds are from a legitimate source. there’s no acquittal of any sort as reported (by a news channel) as there was no trial! Funds were frozen by NCA and NCA has decided to not investigate these funds anymore. Suleman Shehbaz remains a fugitive during a concealment case against him and his father before AC LHR,” he said in another tweet.

The news channel Mr Akbar refers to claimed that the NCA submitted an investigation report on the bank transactions of Shehbaz and Suleman to the Westminster court, declaring them acquitted of “money laundering, fraud and criminal conduct”.

It further reported that the government’s ARU had written a letter to the united kingdom government in December 2019 making serious concealment and corruption allegations against Shehbaz and Suleman. The ARU reportedly wrote that Shehbaz and his son were involved in multiple cases in Pakistan associated with concealment and corruption. “Both father and son are involved in double criminalities,” it stated and further alleged Shehbaz and Suleman laundered money from the united kingdom to Pakistan and later transferred back an equivalent as white money.

PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said: “The UK court’s decision has unequivocally exonerated Shehbaz Sharif and his family of all malicious and vexatious claims of corruption and concealment by Imran Khan. The NCA conducted a 21-month global investigation spanning across a 20 year timeframe whilst overcoming unprecedented jurisdictional challenges. Never within the history of Pakistan has such a public office-holder been subjected to global scrutiny and multi-jurisdictional probing.

Imran Khan has been exposed as a charlatan, willing to malign and assassinate characters of honest public office-holders. False corruption narrative exposed as nothing quite a smoke screen and Imran Khan to be an unscrupulous ringmaster of a circus built on incompetence, deceit and stained by the indignation of the innocent and therefore the poor.”

Ms Aurangzeb further claimed that in December 2019, the NAB Lahore director general had met the NCA officials in London thereby an application had been filed by Barrister Zia Nasim, a world jurist from the government’s ARU. “The application triggered an investigation of Shehbaz Sharif and family’s assets.

Later, an email was sent to the NCA by the ARU officials to help it with the aforementioned investigation. Furthermore, the govt of Pakistan invited NCA to go to the country in 2020. These are undisputed facts, corroborated through evidence filed within the UK court. This government will fall on the load of its own deceit and lies,” she stated.

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