The Daily Mail, UK accuses Shehbaz Sharif of stealing Aid money

UK’s Daily Mail on Sunday has accused former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif of embezzling tens of millions of pounds of public money from aid given by Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) and laundering it in the United Kingdom.

The report says DFID poured more than £500 million of UK taxpayers’ money into Punjab in the form of aid during Shehbaz’s tenure as chief minister. “Legal documents allege that Shahbaz’s son-in-law received about £1 million from the fund established to rebuild the lives of earthquake victims,” the newspaper reported. “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,” it added. “Britain’s National Crime Agency is working closely with Pakistani investigators and Home Secretary Sajid Javid is discussing the possible extradition of members of Shahbaz’s family who have taken refuge in London,” it added.

“Yet, say investigators, all the time that DFID was heaping him and his government with praise and taxpayers’ cash, Shehbaz and his family were embezzling tens of millions of pounds of public money and laundering it in Britain,” writes reporter David Rose. “They are convinced that some of the allegedly stolen money came from DFID-funded aid projects,” the report says.

The report states that the newspaper was last week given exclusive access to some of the results of a high-level probe ordered by Prime Minister Imran Khan and also allowed to interview key witnesses held on remand in jail, including a UK citizen Aftab Mehmood. Mehmood, according to the report, claims he laundered millions on behalf of Shehbaz’s family from a nondescript office in Birmingham.

PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif vowed to sue the British newspaper for publishing ‘fabricated’ and ‘misleading’ story. Taking to the microblogging site, Twitter, on Sunday, the leader of the opposition in National Assembly alleged that the story was published at the behest of Prime Minister Imran Khan and his special assistant on accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar. “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,” he posted on his Twitter handle.

The response comes minutes after PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, while addressing a news conference, refuted the controversial story, saying the party will take legal action against the prime minister, his special assistant and British publication. The PML president said that he will also launch legal proceedings against the prime minister and his assistant. “IK [Imran Khan] has yet to respond to three such cases I filed against him for defamation,” he said.