Court indicts Shehbaz, Hamza in Ramzan Sugar Mills case

NAB’s supplementary reference, Both Opposition Leaders in National and Punjab Assemblies respectively deny charges, contend to contest

LAHORE - Accountability Court in Lahore on Thursday indicted Opposition Leader in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz in Ramzan Sugar Mills’ supplementary reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The court adjourned further proceedings till August 27 and summoned the prosecution witnesses for recording their statements.  Accountability Court Judge Amjad Nazir Chaudhry conducted the case proceedings, wherein Shehbaz Sharif, along with his counsel, Amjad Parvaiz, appeared at the start.

Advocate Amjad Parvaiz requested the court for allowing Shehbaz Sharif to leave as the joint session of the parliament had been summoned and his client wanted to participate in it. A jail official told the court in response to a query that Hamza Shehbaz was on the way, and he would be produced before the court shortly. Shehbaz Sharif stated that he appeared in compliance of the court orders and wanted to go to Islamabad to attend the parliament session.

The court told Shehbaz Sharif that his counsel wanted to submit arguments before the indictment. The court observed that after the indictment, Shehbaz Sharif could leave and his counsel could advance arguments. The court observed that already the accused had been indicted in the main reference, and now he (Shehbaz) would be indicted in the supplementary reference also.

The judge questioned Shehbaz's counsel that how the present indictment proceedings were baseless when no objection was raised on indictment of his client in the main reference. 

Amjad Parvaiz contended that the allegation of construction of a drain for Ramzan Sugar Mills was baseless. He submitted that the construction of the drain was approved by the cabinet and provincial assembly. However, the court noted that it was ready to listen to his arguments for 10 hours, adding that the matter was pending for the past six months and indictment should take place today.

At this, Hamza Shehbaz's counsel requested the court for granting an opportunity for preparation and adjourning the case. To which, the court observed that no legal right of the accused would be affected after the indictment.

The NAB prosecutor stated that Hamza Shehbaz was Chief Executive Officer of the mill, and he had made the then MPA Maulana Rehmatullah move an application for construction of the drain, thus causing a loss to the national exchequer.

He submitted that the government agencies used the public funds to appease Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz. He submitted that the law did not allow the public representatives to exceed their jurisdiction. He submitted that Hamza Shehbaz caused loss to the national exchequer and benefited from construction of the drain.

However, Advocate Amjad Parvaiz submitted that the indictment could not take place in the absence of persons who were part of the inquiry. To which, the prosecutor stated that due to absence of someone, indictment proceedings could not be stopped, as per the NAB Ordinance.

Subsequently, the court indicted Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz after the jail authorities produced the latter in the court. Both denied charges levelled by NAB in the supplementary reference and contended to contest them.

At this, the court summoned the prosecution witnesses for recording their statements and adjourned further proceedings till August 27. Strict security arrangements were made on this occasion and a heavy police contingent was placed around the judicial complex. NAB had filed supplementary reference in the Ramzan Sugar Mills case. Hamza and his father, Shehbaz Sharif, were accused in the case.

As per reference, NAB accused Shehbaz Sharif of misuse of authority in Ramzan Sugar Mills case. Shehbaz Sharif, the then Punjab chief minister, allegedly approved an amount of Rs210 million for construction of the drain to benefit the mill. Hamza has been charged in the case for being the chief executive of the Ramzan Sugar Mills.

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