Court allows FIA to withdraw witnesses in money laundering case

Shahid Aslam Special Correspondent - Lahore

23rd Sep, 2021. 03:51 pm
Reference Against Shehbaz Sharif's Son-In-Law, Daughter Adjourned Till 19 June

LAHORE: A court of Judicial Magistrate on Thursday allowed Federal Instigation Agency (FIA) to withdraw its witnesses against PML-N president and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shahbaz in a Rs 25 billion money laundering case till the time there is an assurance that the witnesses will not be pressurised by the management of Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB), Bol News has learnt.

The bankers (witnesses) were recording statements under section 164 of the CrPC against the Sharif family.

FIA Lahore, while investigating sugar scam, had registered a case against Shahbaz Sharif and family in November last year on the charges of committing money laundering through fake accounts of low ranked employees of their Ramzan Sugar Mill, mostly run through MCB.

Similarly, on September 17, FIA had submitted a list of 26 bankers as witnesses in the court for recording their statements against the accused. Of the total, 13 bankers (witnesses) belonged to MCB. Six witnesses had recorded their statements on September 18 and the rest were to record the statements on Wednesday.

In the meanwhile, on September 19, FIA team arrested a top MCB banker named Asim Suri and also sought arrest warrants of another MCB official Azhar Mahmood, a retired FIA official, for their alleged interference into the investigations and for forcing witnesses to record statements in favor of the accused family.

The head of FIA’s sugar case inquiry, DIG Dr Muhammad Rizwan on September 19 had written a strong-worded warning letter to Chairman MCB Mian Mansha, advising him to stay away from harassing their witnesses (MCB bankers) as they have evidences of the same. Rizwan warned that if the harassment continues, FIA will take strict actions against Mian Mansha and other top management of the MCB under money laundering act.

The investigating officer of FIA, Assistant Director Ali Mardan Shah submitted another application here on Thursday stating that until the relevant banks provide clear evidence that a duress-free environment has been provided to the bank witnesses, recording the statements of the bankers in the hope of getting a voluntary statement would be an exercise in futility and may cause travesty of justice.

“FIA will request this Honorable Court when the aforementioned evidence is provided by the banks and corroborated in investigation.”

Moreover, FIA prayed to court that in light of the submissions, the previous requests dated 16-09-2021 & 17-09-2021 submitted by this Agency to record statements u/s 164 CrPC of the therein named witnesses may kindly be allowed to be withdrawn, without prejudice.

“It is most humbly prayed that the permissions to record statements of witnesses u/s 164 CrPC granted by this Honorable Court vide orders dated 16-09-2021 6 17-09-2021 may kindly be withdrawn, without prejudice.”

Judicial Magistrate Muhammad Kamran Zafar allowed the application stating that FIA can submit any fresh application for recording statements of the witnesses whenever required.

“Considering the grounds mentioned by the I.O in the instant application as genuine, application in hand is allowed with this direction that investigating officer would be at liberty to present any fresh application as and when required.”

It may be relevant to mention here that Shahbaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz are on pre-arrest bails and the matter has been fixed before a court for September 25.

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