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Monday, April 15, 2024

Shehbaz Sharif worth 200 million pounds? David Rose stands by his story

A report by well-known journalist, David Rose, made headlines across Pakistan when it revealed that Shahbaz Sharif, former chief minister of Pakistan’s largest province and President of former ruling party, is likely to be involved in money laundering and corruption. The report has become a hot talk in Pakistan since the newspaper has decided to stand by it despite the rebuttal from the UK government.

News Analysis |

What does the Report Reveal? 

According to a confidential investigation report seen by 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.

According to the Daily Mail, investigators are convinced that some of the allegedly stolen money came from the Department of International Development (DFID)-funded aid projects.

For rehabilitating and rebuild lives of the poor, the DFID gave £54 million from UK taxpayers; and the legal documents alleged that Shahbaz’s son-in-law received about £1 million from that fund.

It is worth noting that Prime Minister Imran Khan has made it clear that he will follow every money launderer and corrupt politician who exploited the poor nation.

As per claim 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 Shahbaz’s family who have taken refuge in London.

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 about £200 million. Among other properties, Shahbaz 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.

UK Government Rejects the Report

The UK aid has rejected the story and assured the taxpayers that the money was used for what had been agreed to. “Our response to the question asked in the headline was robust and clear. It was carried close to the bottom of the 2,500 word story,” UK aid said in the clarification.

Read more: Shahbaz Sharif implicated in five more cases: Murad Saeed

A Department for International Development spokesperson said: “The UK’s financial support to ERRA over this period was for payment by results – which means we only gave money once the agreed work, which was primarily focused on building schools, was completed, and the work audited and verified. The UK taxpayer got exactly what it paid for and helped the vulnerable victims of a devastating earthquake. We are confident our robust systems protected UK taxpayers from fraud,” it added.

However, analysts and legal experts believe that the aid department did not have any other option except to reject the report and its content. But a thorough investigation carried out by a neutral commission may determine facts of the matter and ensure if the money was really laundered.

Shahbaz Sharif’s Response

The PML-N President has 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.”

PML-N has also refuted the allegations and alleged that the prime minister of Pakistan and his team are behind the story carried out by Daily Mail. Party’s spokesperson maintained that the story does not offer any substantial evidence to back the claims it has made. She alleged that this is the part of an ongoing political victimization on opposition leaders in Pakistan.

Read more: Is Shahbaz Sharif seeking political asylum in UK?

It is worth noting that Prime Minister Imran Khan has made it clear that he will follow every money launderer and corrupt politician who exploited the poor nation. Opposition parties in Pakistan term his accountability drive, without offering any evidence, as selective and politically motivated. But the British author and journalist who wrote the story has decided to stand by it. He maintains that he has sufficient amount of evidence to prove what he has written. He spoke to Dr. Moeed Pirzada, Islamabad based journalist and political commentator, and said that he was waiting for the suite to be filed by Shahbaz Sharif. He also elaborated that how much money was laundered and how he developed the nexus.

It is believed that the UK government must look into the report and order an independent inquiry so that those looting money from poor countries like Pakistan may not use the country for their black money. Similarly, it is a right of the UK citizens to come to know if their money is being spent on welfare works or not. Political observers also speculate that there may be a discussion on the report in the UK since it talks about the taxpayers’ money.