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LAHORE: The Federal Investi­gation Agency (FIA) has launched a probe into the role of some senior officials of the petroleum and natural resources ministry in the alleged embezzlement of billions of rupees by some national and international oil and gas companies.

The investigation relates to the embezzlement of Rs86 billion allegedly committed by 40 companies.

Referring to the petroleum ministry’s audit reports 2013-15, a complaint (filed in the FIA Lahore) said these companies had collected billions of rupees from the masses during 2012 and 2015 in lieu of petroleum levy and gas surcharge.

According to the audit reports, “nine companies sold oil worth billions of rupees in connivance with officers/officials of the petroleum ministry after misappropriating the same from 34 oil wells in the name of ‘test production’ over the past six years.

“According to the law, the test production cannot be carried out for more than two years after which either the oil well has to be closed or sale has to be declared on a commercial basis.

FIA has so far recovered Rs2.13bn from some gas companies

“The ministry has reportedly managed to recover Rs48bn while Rs86bn is still recoverable from these companies which got oil and gas exploration licences in 2002, but did not invest a single dollar for the purpose till 2012. The Sui Northern and Sui Southern (gas companies) also misappropriated a huge amount collected in lieu of gas surcharge and included the same in their profit. The amount was to be deposited in the government exchequer.”

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An FIA official told Dawn on Sunday that on the directive of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the agency had launched a thorough probe into the alleged embezzlement of billions of rupees by some national and multinational oil and gas companies in the country.

“So far we have recovered Rs2.13bn from some of the companies,” he said, adding that the FIA was also determining the role of some senior officers of the petroleum ministry for their alleged connivance with the companies in the scam.

“We are going to summon these officers,” he said, adding that the companies’ representatives were also being called for investigation.

The official said the companies had extracted oil but not paid tax on it for a certain period. Similarly, the oil extracted through the government machinery for testing purpose was sold illegally and nothing deposited in the national exchequer. “In some cases, the (oil) exploration was allowed under the agreement with the government for three years, but it continued for 10 years and there was no check and balance on part of the department concerned,” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2017