The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has decided to approach the National Crime Agency in UK and Interpol for the extradition of Salman Shehbaz, son of PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, as he had been declared a fugitive in a money laundering case against the Sharif family. Analysts are mulling over the simple question; will the NAB be able to bring Salman Shehbaz back to Pakistan?
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According to a spokesperson for the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), an accountability court in Lahore had issued non-bailable arrest warrants against Salman and declared him a proclaimed offender.
He added that NAB would request the National Crime Agency and Interpol to deport Salman, who is in London, and provide all possible assistance to them for this purpose as per law.
In October last year, an accountability court in Lahore had declared Salman a proclaimed offender after a NAB prosecutor said the bureau had issued at least six call-up notices to the suspect but he did not respond and had fled the country to escape the investigation.
Bring Salman Shehbaz back to Pakistan: Shehbaz family’s alleged corruption
Earlier in April, NAB has claimed that it had found evidence of massive money laundering through which Shehbaz Sharif and his family members accumulated assets in the United Kingdom.
It maintained that the illegally accumulated assets were worth Rs85 billion to Rs100 billion and were bought during Shehbaz’s tenure as Punjab chief minister.
NAB’s probe found that Hamza Shehbaz’s declared assets in 2003 were worth less than Rs20 million, which increased by almost 2,000 per cent to over Rs410 million after his father became Punjab CM.
Similarly, his younger brother Suleman Shehbaz’s personal wealth increased 8,500 times and he now has assets worth more than Rs3 billion.
Interestingly, in June, Shehbaz while in NAB’s custody for the Ashiana Housing scam had recorded a statement that his son, Salman, was looking after his financial matters.
What is INTERPOL?
The International Criminal Police Organisation is an international organization that facilitates worldwide police cooperation and crime control. It is commonly known as INTERPOL. Its headquarters is in Lyon, France. The INTERPOL has seven regional bureaus worldwide and a National Central Bureau in all 194 member states, making it the world’s largest police organization.
INTERPOL provides investigative support, expertise, and training to law enforcement worldwide, focusing on three major areas of transnational crime: terrorism, cybercrime, and organized crime. Its broad mandate covers virtually every kind of crime, including crimes against humanity, child pornography, drug trafficking and production, political corruption, copyright infringement, and white-collar crime.
The agency also facilitates cooperation among national law enforcement institutions through criminal databases and communications networks. Contrary to popular belief, INTERPOL is itself not a law enforcement agency.
NAB and INTERPOL: legal technicalities and political challenges
The INTERPOL does not get into any case which is either politically motivated or lacks required evidence. The government of Pakistan makes several requests to the INTERPOL to get wanted criminals back to the country. However, some of the requests are considered appropriate and demand action. Others are rejected.
In 2019, the NAB arrested a suspect — said to be a religious scholar — wanted in a Modaraba scam worth over Rs7 billion from the United Arab Emirates through Interpol. “An accused, Mufti Abdullah Shaukat, has been arrested by NAB through Interpol from the UAE,” the official said.
The suspect was wanted in a corruption reference regarding a Modaraba scam whereby a man named Shafiqur Rehman had cheated the public at large by collecting Rs7.2bn under false promises of investment and profits.
The Ponzi scheme was run by a well-organized syndicate of 12 alleged criminals in Karachi who had been successful in defrauding around a hundred innocent people.
“The arrested accused, Mufti Abdullah Shaukat, was wanted for issuing a ‘false fatwa’ in favor of the main accused, Shafiqur Rehman, illegally declaring his business as legal and legitimate under Islamic laws,” said the NAB official.
However, the INTERPOL gave a clean chit to former finance minister as it rejected the Government of Pakistan’s request for issuance of a red arrest warrant against him and ordered all its bureaus to delete all files in their systems, a local news outlet reported on Monday.
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The former finance minister, who now lives in London, and has been declared an absconder by Pakistan’s courts, had submitted evidence before Interpol, contending he is a victim of mala fide and false report of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted by the Supreme Court (SC) to probe the Panama Papers leaks. He said that the report had charged him with tax evasion whereas he had been constant in paying his taxes during the last 34 years.
The Interpol issued him a certificate, confirming that he is not subject to any red notice. Moreover the 109th session of the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s files, decided to remove all data related to him in its own systems and the systems which have access to Interpol’s files.
“After a thorough examination of the elements before it, the Commission found that the data challenged raised questions as to compliance with applicable rules. As a result, it considered that the retention of these data in the Interpol Information System was not compliant with Interpol’s rules and decided that they should be deleted. This decision was forwarded to the Interpol General Secretariat which deleted the data challenged from Interpol’s files,” the notification stated.
In the instant case, analysts believe that the INTERPOL may turn down the request since Salman belongs to a political family and he is expected to convince the authorities that the case is politically motivated. But the real test for the law enforcement agencies is; will they be able to bring Salman Shehbaz back to Pakistan?