Shahbaz Sharif NCA probe: Govt embarrassing itself, says Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

LAHORE: Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday lashed out at the government, saying that it had embarrassed itself in front of the world with the British National Crime Agency (NCA)’s probe against PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif. 

In a hard-hitting press conference, flanked by Rana Sanaullah and Ahsan Iqbal, Abbasi said the government’s claims that it was not involved or pursuing money laundering cases against Shahbaz had been exposed. 

He said that the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) and, as per the PML-N’s sources, even Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials, used to go to London to meet NCA officials. 

“The standard set by this government, when it comes to lying, is totally unique,” he said. “The prime minister of this country, in his own office, creates an Asset Recovery Unit that has no legal basis. And what has that ARU done?” he questioned. 

He referred to the papers in his hand, saying that they were official documents submitted by the NCA at the UK court. 

Referring to the NCA probe against the PML-N president and his son Suleman, Abbasi said that normally in money laundering cases, financial transactions only six years back were traced. 

“In this case, however, the probe stretched to cover financial transactions covering a period of over 20 years,” he noted. “This inquiry was also not limited to just one country; it took place in Pakistan, the UK and the UAE.”

The former prime minister said that money sent by Shahbaz from Pakistan to his UK bank account was legal money. 

He said Shahbaz and Suleman had both given their consent to the NCA to probe their accounts. “Time and again, the NCA told the court that it has the complete support and cooperation of the Pakistani government and its agencies,” he said. 

Abbasi alleged that DG NAB Lahore, the ARU, FIA and other agencies were involved in framing allegations against the PML-N president. “And now, the prime minister of this country says his government had nothing to do with the probe,” he said. 

PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal said that the government could not, till this day, find evidence of former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s involvement in corruption. 

“Each case has slammed shut on their faces,” he said, referring to the government. “You could not even prove corruption worth Rs32 in a Rs3,200bn project,” he added. 

Iqbal said that the government is failing the masses as it is busy registering fake cases against the Opposition. “However, your failure is becoming a matter of life and death for the public,” he said. 

Iqbal said the government itself was inviting trouble from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as the prime minister was repeatedly saying at international forums that political leaders in the country are involved in money laundering.

“This he does only to promote his politics of hatred and revenge,” he said. 

Shahbaz, Suleman’s accounts ordered unfrozen

After 21 months of investigation and review of 20 years of financial affairs, a British court has ordered the unfreezing of the Opposition leader’s bank accounts and those belonging to his son, Suleman Sharif.

The decision was taken by the court after UK’s top anti-corruption body NCA concluded there was no evidence of money laundering, fraud and criminal conduct against the two, according to evidence seen by The News exclusively.

The Westminster Magistrates Court’s Judge Nicholas Rimmer set aside the two accounts freezing orders (AFO) against Shahbaz Sharif and his son related to a December 2019 case filed by the NCA at the Pakistani government’s request.

The bank accounts of Shahbaz Sharif and Suleiman Shahbaz were freezed in December 2019 on court’s order. The National Accountability Bureau East Recovery Unit shared the evidence with the British agency.

During the investigation, the accounts of the Shahbaz Sharif and Sharif family in the UK and UAE were investigated.