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Assets of Shahbaz Sharif in Pakistan are just tip of the iceberg: Fawad Chaudhry

15 April, 2019

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ISLAMABAD: At a press conference on Sunday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry broke down the trail of corruption allegedly instigated by the two families who have always loomed large in Pakistan’s politics: the Sharifs and the Zardaris. He alleged that if there is one family that has marked the beginning of modern-day corruption in Pakistan, it is the Sharif family.

The minister claimed that starting towards the end of 1988 up until the beginning of 1990, the Sharifs had accumulated a lot of wealth and were in a conundrum about how to manage it and turn it white to use within Pakistan or anywhere else. “Therefore, in 1992, the Economic Reforms Act was introduced, which had an apparently innocent provision which entailed that the source of money coming from abroad will not be questioned by the authorities,” he said. “In 1996-97 and then 1997-98, the authorities noticed a very suspicious transaction and found that the company behind it was Hudaibiya Papers Mill, which had a total value of Rs 95 million. All of a sudden Rs 810m worth of foreign remittances were credited to the company’s accounts,” he continued.

“An investigation was thus started and it was discovered that the owner of Hudaibiya Paper Mills was Mian Sharif, the father of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif,” the minister claimed. “When the case was torn open in earnest, it was found that an economic hitman, Ishaq Dar, was hired. Dar introduced a novel method for money laundering: fake accounts,” he continued. “Money was deposited in these fake accounts and then sent abroad through hawala/hundi. Thereafter, the money arrived in Pakistan through TT (Telegraphic Transfer) to accounts of 40 individuals, all of whom were related to the Sharifs [including] some very distant relatives,” he further said. “All of this was described by Dar under oath to a magistrate in 2008, in a confession which outlined each and every detail,” he added, as he went over the origins of the alleged corruption by Sharifs.

“The period after that is before you. Musharraf’s investigation could not continue and the Sharifs were given an NRO,” the information minister continued.

“Now why I want to talk about Hudaibiya is because all subsequent cases of corruption followed the exact same scheme. Hill Metal Establishment followed the same method as in Hudaibiya Paper Mills,” he said. “Hussain Nawaz sent around 126,768 euros […] the overall amount sent by him was around Rs 1,165.6 million, through TT to Nawaz Sharif. Out of this amount, Nawaz Sharif then gave 820 million to Maryam Nawaz, who then bought agricultural land from the amount,” he claimed.

Fawad Chuadhry said assets of PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif’s family in Pakistan are ‘just tip of the iceberg’ as their real wealth is stashed abroad. “He plundered the nation’s wealth and stashed it in foreign countries. When investigation in assets beyond means case started against Shahbaz, the members of his family fled the country to escape the investigation,” he added.

The minister claimed Shahbaz Sharif’s family did not have any known source of income in the country except Shahbaz’s salary while he would draw as Punjab’s chief minister. “The real beneficiary of this corruption was Shahbaz Sharif who bought several expensive properties in posh areas of Islamabad and Lahore for his wife,” he said, adding that 72 persons have been identified for transferring money into bank accounts belonging to the former CM’s family and all of them are either fake or non-existent.

Asif Zardari breathed new innovation into the whole exercise, said the information minister, as he moved on to discuss the Federal Investigation Agency’s findings on the PPP co-chairman’s fake accounts case. “Whereas here [in the case of the Sharifs], there was the creation of and use of fake accounts, Zardari sahib bought an entire bank for himself,” he claimed. Fawad alleged that an entire network was raised in Sindh where fake accounts were created and then money was transferred to people ‘such as the man who would sell falooda (an ice cream dessert) in Faisalabad and saw millions of rupees transferred to his account’. “In all the cases, money was transferred to insignificant people, such as gardeners, drivers, guards, etc. If a person so much as passed by these people (behind the transactions) from afar, their accounts would be targeted and used,” claimed the minister. “When an investigation began into those accounts, FIA unearthed the involvement of around 5000 accounts of which 32 accounts were the main accounts which branched out to the others,” he said. “Everything was traced to these accounts: payment for Bilawal Bhutto’s aircraft expenditures, for Ayyan Ali’s tickets, and for the expenditures of Bilawal House. Bakhtawar [Bhutto]’s birthday expenses were also paid through these accounts,” he alleged.

Prime Minister Imran Khan while citing a quote of French economist Frédéric Bastiat Sunday said the money launderers behave with indignation when they are questioned.

The prime minister in a tweet shared the saying of the renowned economist, who had said, “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

“The truth of this saying is reflected clearly in the way money launderers are treated and the way they behave with indignation when questioned,” the prime minister commented.

The prime minister’s remarks come in the wake of leaders of both Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) coming out and lambasting the government over accountability proceedings against them.

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