Pakistan

Accountability Court grants permanent exemption to PM Shehbaz in sugar mill case

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LAHORE: An accountability court on Monday granted permanent exemption to accused Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (PM) from personal appearance in a corruption reference of Ramzan Sugar Mills.

Accused PM undertook to appear whenever required by the court.

Accused PM appeared before the court along with his counsel and personally requested the judge to allow his application for the exemption.  He submitted that he had never sought exemption from personal appearance unnecessarily.

He said, `Since Allah has given me the responsibility of serving the nation I have to discharge my responsibilities.’ Shehbaz said being the prime minister he was supposed to meet foreign delegates including the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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About the reference of the sugar mills, the prime minister said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) accused him of misusing public money as chief minister for the construction of a drain in Chiniot. He claimed that the drain was constructed on the requisition of a local MPA from the city after a formal approval by the provincial cabinet.

PM said such drains were also constructed in other cities of the province. He also presented a booklet to the judge containing details of development projects executed in the province during his stint as chief minister.

Accused also gave the booklet to a NAB prosecutor as the latter told the judge that he did not have the same.

The prosecutor opposed the application of Shehbaz for permanent exemption saying the applicant did not provide any concrete reason. He said there had been no progress in the trial proceedings of reference.

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The court reserved the verdict, which he allowed after a while allowing the application of Shehbaz for permanent exemption in Ramzan Sugar Mills reference trial.

The court postponed hearing on same application in another reference of Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme till July 5.

In the mills reference, the NAB had arrested Shehbaz on Oct 5, 2018 and the Lahore High Court had order to release on bail on February 14, 2019.

The LHC in its bail granting order had observed that prima facie, allegations about gratification, corrupt practice, abuse of authority, kickbacks and commission required further probe  during trial as at this stage cogent evidence was not available. The NAB had alleged that accused Shehbaz Sharif being chief minister and his son Hamza with the abetment and connivance of each other caused a loss to national exchequer of Rs213 million by committing the offence of misuse of authority.

It said Shehbaz had issued a directive for the construction of a drain in district Chiniot primarily for the use of Ramzan Sugar Mills owned by his sons- Hamza and Suleman.

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