The PML-N has denied claims that Shehbaz Sharif embezzled millions given to Pakistan by the UK in aid.
Spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzaib slammed a report by British tabloid the Daily Mail that accused him of “embezzling tens of millions of pounds of public money and laundering it in Britain”.
In a series of Tweets posted via the PML-N’s official Twitter account, she said the British government conducted an independent audit of the funds and Punjab government supported it. The government of Punjab worked with honesty and diligence and used the funds for the people, she added.
Linking the report to the video of Judge Arshad Malik, Aurangzaib has called it propaganda aimed at hiding the truth and treatment of former PM Nawaz Sharif. She said it was an attempt at discrediting the video revealed by PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz.
The tweets also accused Prime Minister Imran Khan of being behind the report.
“DFID admits it is ‘well aware’ that Pakistan is a ‘corrupt environment’. However, since 2014, DFID [Department for International Development] has given more aid to Pakistan than any other country – up to £463 million a year,” read the report.
At a press conference later in the day, she said the story was “planted” in a tabloid paper. She said the paper was unreliable. She said DFID rebutted the report and stated that it only released funds after the completion of the task. Therefore, it only gave money when it saw work being done. According to her, it called the Daily Mail a liar.
She said the paper quoted accountability adviser Shehzad Akbar as saying Shehbaz stole money in 2005. Aurangzaib said Shehbaz wasn’t even in Pakistan at the time. It was Musharraf’s era, she said. When he came into power in 2008 he came in as chief minister of Punjab, she reminded him.
Bring us these records, she demanded. Show the country proof of your claims, she added.
She asked why the Daily Mail wasn’t reporting on the PTI’s “18 fake accounts”.
Part of the report featured an interview with Aftab Mehmood, whom the Daily Mail called a key witness. A British citizen, he was arrested during a trip to Pakistan in April and is being held at a Lahore jail, according to the report. “He claims he 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,” read the report.
Legal documents allege that Shahbaz’s son-in-law received about £1 million from a fund established to rebuild the lives of earthquake victims – to which DFID gave £54 million from UK taxpayers, it said, adding that stolen millions were laundered in Birmingham and then allegedly transferred to Shahbaz’s family’s accounts by UK branches of banks including Barclays and HSBC.
The report also alleged that Britain’s National Crime Agency is working closely with Pakistani investigators and Home Secretary Sajid Javid is discussing the possible extradition of members of Shehbaz’s family who have taken refuge in London.
The report claims laundered payments were made to Shehbaz’s children, his wife and his son-in-law Ali Imran. But it adds that Shehbaz ‘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.’ It also cited investigations against Ali Imran.
The DFID rebutted the Daily Mail’s claims in a statement. “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,” it said in its statement published on Sunday. “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 said the Daily Mail provided little substantial evidence to support its headline and therefore accusations.