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SECP, FBR, law ministry reject JIT's allegations of evidence tampering

Updated Jun 15, 2017 12:48am

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) in its reply to the joint investigation team's (JIT) application to the Supreme Court has denied all allegations levelled against it by the probe team.

Particularly referencing the JIT's assertion that the investigation into the Chaudhry Sugar Mills was closed in 2016, the SECP labels the accusations as "absolutely incorrect and unfounded".

Further laying the blame on the investigating team, the SECP's response read: "The JIT has error in comprehending the factual issues and misread the record..."

In another shocking twist to the Panamagate investigation, the SECP turned the tables on the JIT by alleging that the witnesses might have misattributed statements in front of the investigating body under duress.

"Apparently any statement attributed to the officers may be [the] result of coercion and stress which cannot be taken into consideration in views of facts and records," read the application.

The JIT in its report said it had asked the SECP to provide any documents pertaining to investigations carried out regarding Chaudhry Sugar Mills or any other company related to the Sharif family. However, an SECP officer ─ whose name was withheld for security reasons ─ claimed that the SECP chairman did not allow him to check from all concerned departments of the SECP and confirm whether there were other inquiries against companies owned by the Sharif family.

FBR responds

In a similar response to the JIT's application, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) negated the accusations placed on it, stating that it has "fully cooperated with the JIT and provided all records which were available with it".

Specifically mentioning the charge that the FBR refrained from submitting the requested documents in their entirety, the revenue collecting authority's reply states: "Record was submitted to the JIT in piecemeal because record was requisitioned by [the] JIT in piecemeal basis".

It goes on to state a number of reasons as to why certain records were not provided, which ─ according to the FBR ─ are due to the facts that the law did not require individuals to file the documents in certain years, some individuals were not registered as taxpayers during specific years and that some of the requested records were not available with the FBR.

The Board also notes that the wealth tax law was repealed after 2001 due to which the particular returns could only be submitted up to 2001-02.

Ministry of Law and Justice refutes allegations

The Ministry of Law and Justice has also replied to the allegations made by the JIT stating that the claims made by the investigating body were "completely unfounded".

"There was no delay from the law ministry. We issued the notification in accordance with the Supreme Court's orders within two days," read the statement.

The response claims that the notifications were channelled through the respective departments in accordance with the law. "The attorney general (AG) informed us of the SC's May 15 order on May 16, after which the notification summary was sent to the cabinet on May 17," reads the reply.

"The cabinet division informed us of the approval of the notification on May 18, following which we issued the said notification and sent a copy to the JIT head."

"The JIT head received the copy on May 18, while copies of the notification were also sent to the AG, registrar of the SC and the interior secretary," claimed the response.

"We were advised to send the notification to Interpol as well as all diplomatic channels, which we complied with on May 18 by sending the notification to the foreign office and interior ministry for necessary action."

The JIT application had cited a delay in the issuance of the notification which would have notified member countries of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) of the authorisation of the JIT head, stating that "the government machinery is being used so as to attempt to frustrate the proceedings of the JIT".

The notification in mention was particularly important as it would have enabled the JIT to undertake Mutual League Assistance (MLA) in acquiring or certifying documents from foreign countries.

Laying the blame straight on the government, the JIT application read: "The matter was intentionally lingered at the behest of [the] Ministry of Law and Justice."