ISLAMABAD: In the backdrop of allegations against the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) of tampering records related to the Chaudhry Sugar Mills Limited (CSML) being investigated as part of the Panama Papers case, the commission’s chairman Zafar Hijazi has asserted that money laundering did not come under the purview of his organisation and that he was not to be held responsible for the tampering of records by a subordinate officer.
In a statement issued by an SECP spokesperson on Friday, the SECP chief shared his position on the alleged tampering of records, but also added: “Since the inquiry proceedings are continuing, I am not supposed to give any version publicly. Once the inquiry is complete, I will definitely explain my position publicly to my countrymen”.
The SECP chairman adds: “Here I have to merely say that anti-money laundering proceedings and the proceeding under Section 263 of the Companies Ordinance 1984 are two entirely different matters and should not be mixed.”
Imran wants SECP officials behind record tampering imprisoned
Mr Hijazi claimed that he was not aware that records related to the CSML had been tampered with or that there had been any irregularity, and stressed that he should not be held responsible for it. “Secondly, the head of any organisation cannot be supposed to be aware of deficiencies or shortcomings in a particular case file nor he can be considered responsible for any such deficiency or wrongdoing. If this precedent of allowing subordinates to apportion blame for their omissions or wrongdoings is allowed to be set, every subordinate officer may attribute his failings to the heads of organisation,” he added.
Media reports said that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had caught on to the tampering of SECP records related to the CSML and seized the records. It is expected to present them before the Supreme Court soon. However, there has been no official confirmation of this from the interior ministry.
The SECP chief, however, said: “I have explained my position to the FIA team which is also reflected in media reports.”
Various media reports have alleged that the SECP’s inquiry proceedings in the CSML case were closed in 2016, but the records were backdated. This discrepancy was pointed out by the FIA and the JIT.
It is yet to be ascertained whether any junior officials had tampered with the records on their own or if it had been carried out on the directives of the SECP chairman.
The JIT’s June 12 report presented before the apex court says that it had been revealed during the examination of witnesses from the SECP that Mr Hijazi was instrumental in closing the investigation of a money laundering case against the CSML.
“This investigation was commenced in the year 2011 but was closed in the year 2016, in back date with effect from 8-01-2013, at the sole behest of the SECP chairman. This act of backdated closure of the investigation apart from being patently mala fide, is also a criminal act, with a view to facilitate the respondents against whom the present investigation is being conducted,” the report said.
The report continues: “It is pointed out that the orders of the SECP chairman to tamper the records and close Chaudhry Sugar Mills investigation of money laundering in back date, was executed by Mr Ali Azeem Ikram, Executive Director, SECP. Incidentally, the said Ali Azeem Ikram was initially nominated by SECP’s Chairman so as to be a member of the present JIT. It seems that the nomination of said Mr Ali Azeem Ikram to be a member of the present JIT by the Chairman SECP had been made with a clear intent to subvert the investigation of the JIT.”
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan expressed concern over the alleged tampering of the records in a tweet on Friday. He demanded that the SECP officials responsible for tampering the records be imprisoned. “Media reports since the last two days exposing SECP’s record tampering to protect the Sharifs...if proven correct it is a deliberate interference in due process and an attempt to impede justice. The perpetrators of this crime must be jailed.”
PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry said the prime minister was misusing state institutions to save his own skin.
He questioned why the top posts of FIA director general, Intelligence Bureau DG and SECP chairman were occupied by officials on acting charge and not through regular appointment. “One of the reasons is that the Sharifs want to run these institutions by their own men,” he said.
Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2017