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Shehbaz ‘to file law suit against Daily Mail’ over ‘fabricated and misleading story’

LAHORE: Opposition leader in the National Assembly and president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Shehbaz Sharif, said Sunday he had “decided to file law suit against Daily Mail” after the tabloid published an investigative report allegedly revealing that he and his family were involved in money-laundering in Britain.

“The fabricated and misleading story was published at the behest of Imran Khan and Shahzad Akbar. We will also launch legal proceedings against them,” he wrote.

“Btw IK has yet to respond to three such cases I filed against him for defamation,” Sharif added in his tweet.

Earlier, the Daily Mail had reported that the UK’s Department for International Development (DIFD) had given Sharif and his government taxpayers’ cash and that he and his family were embezzling tens of millions of pounds of public money and laundering it to Britain.

The high-level probe was ordered by Prime Minister Imran Khan after he came into power last year.

The report stated: “After winning election on a pledge to combat corruption, Imran Khan set up a special team to deal with it, the Asset Recovery Unit, headed by a UK-educated barrister.

“They have examined a series of suspicious transactions running to many millions and shown that Shehbaz’s family’s assets grew enormously during the years he was in power,” it added.

The report further revealed that the Sharif family was worth just £150,000 in 2003 but, by 2018, their total assets had grown to about £200 million. “Among other properties, Shehbaz owns a 53,000 sq ft palace in Lahore, which has its own large security force,” the report said.

The DFID said it was “well aware” about Pakistan being “corrupt environment”. However, since 2014, it gave more aid to Islamabad than any other country — up to £463 million a year.

According to the report, the family’s legitimate income sources could not account for their riches. The money, it said, was channelled from abroad — via several elaborate money-laundering schemes, in which Britain played a central role.

The report also claimed laundered payments were made to Shehbaz’s children, his wife, and his son-in-law, Ali Imran but added that the former Punjab Chief Minister “was the principal beneficiary of this money-laundering enterprise, by way of spending, acquisition of properties and their expansion into palatial houses where he lived”.

Shortly afterwards, on the other hand, the DFID discredited the Daily Mail’s report. In a statement, it 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, noting that the Mail on Sunday provided little substantial evidence.

“The report says investigators in Pakistan “are convinced that some of the allegedly stolen money came from DFID-funded aid projects” without providing any substantial evidence this was the case with the earthquake fund”, the DFID added.

It added that the piece goes on to quote Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Asset Recovery Unit chief, Shahzad Akbar, saying it “appears” some money “may” have been stolen from aid and development projects, again without offering any substantial evidence this was the case with ERRA.

Akbar, the PM’s special assistant, said the PML-N President Sharif’s son, Suleman Shehbaz, was the main culprit in the laundering of UK aid fund for earthquake victims.

Akbar said Suleman was summoned to Pakistan several times in relation to the allegations but did not appear. He requested the UK government to extradite the suspects or give access to them.

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