Money laundering allegations: Has Shehbaz Sharif filed a case against Daily Mail?

PML-N’s President’s apparent unwillingness to serve the Daily Mail with a legal notice and initiate a proceeding in a court of law is demonstrative of the fact that David Rose’s story, the journalist standing by every word he wrote, holds some solid grounds. It is yet to be seen how Shehbaz’s legal team deals with the case.

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Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability, Shahzad Akbar, revealed on Sunday that opposition leader and former chief minister of Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif, has not filed any case against the British publication, Daily Mail.

SAPM Akbar clarified that a legal complaint has been submitted by the opposition leader which is claimed to be “gravely defamatory and a politically motivated campaign against him.”

It is believed that the complaint has been filed to merely create an image of Shehbaz’s being honest and upright. In reality, it has been learnt that the PML-N president is not interested in letting the British courts get involved into the matter and push himself further into a likely embarrassing situation.

David Rose has repeatedly said that he has evidence to back whatever he has written and can present it in any court of law if served with a legal notice by Shehbaz. 

Akbar claimed that the complaint issued via a London-based legal firm, Carter-Ruck Solicitors, did not refute any specific allegation made against Sharif, nor did it say that a case had been filed against the publication.

PM’s Assistant made it clear that the law firm has also clarified that a legal complaint, although not formally, has been filed. “According to Sharif’s own law firm, no case has been initiated [against the British publication] as yet,” Akbar said. “They complained to the Mail on Sunday saying, […] ‘We are thinking of filing a case against you.’ This is not a lawsuit. Going to court is [initiating a lawsuit].”

Read more: Money laundering case; FIA may arrest important figures in Sindh

Akbar also challenged Shehbaz Sharif to confront the publication and go to the court, if he is right. “If you are in the right, why not go to court?” Akbar asked.

Moreover, Akbar added that the journalist behind the report, David Rose, is sticking to his story, and also shared a tweet from him dated July 26:

David Rose has repeatedly said that he has evidence to back whatever he has written and can present it in any court of law if served with a legal notice by Shehbaz.

Did Shehbaz Shrif steal money?

According to a confidential investigation report seen by the Daily Mail, millions of pounds were transferred into the bank accounts of Shehbaz’s family members, including his wife, children and a son-in-law. It states to have interviewed key witnesses held on remand in jail, including a UK citizen, Aftab Mehmood, who claims that he had laundered millions on behalf of Shahbaz’s family from a nondescript office in Birmingham – without attracting suspicion from Britain’s financial regulators, who inspected his books regularly.

PML-N president is not interested to let the British courts get involved into the matter and push himself further into a likely embarrassing situation. 

According to Daily Mail, investigators are convinced that some of the allegedly stolen money came from the Department for International Development (DFID)-funded aid projects. For rehabilitating and rebuilding lives of the poor, the DFID gave £54 million from UK taxpayers; and the legal documents allege that Shehbaz’s son-in-law received about £1 million from that fund.

As per claims by the Daily Mail, Britain’s National Crime Agency has been working closely with Pakistani investigators and Home Secretary Sajid Javid discussing the possible extradition of members of Shehbaz’s family, who have taken refuge in London.

Read more: Money Laundering, Suo Motus and Zardari

A confidential investigation report, seen by Daily Mail, says the family was worth just £150,000 in 2003 but by 2018 their total assets had grown to around £200 million. Among other properties, Shehbaz owns a 53,000 sq ft palace in Lahore, which has its own large security force. The money, the report says, was channeled from abroad – via several elaborate money-laundering schemes, in which Britain played a central role.

Shehbaz Sharif’s response

The PML-N President said he had decided to file a suit against the Daily Mail. He tweeted: “Have decided to file law suit against Daily Mail. The fabricated and misleading story was published at the behest of Imran Khan and Shahzad Akbar. We will also launch legal proceedings against them. Btw IK has yet to respond to three such cases I filed against him for defamation.”

Recently, former CM Sharif posted an image and claimed to serve a legal notice against the publication.

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