MAHEEN Fatima says she was locked in a room for giving statement to JIT.
MAHEEN Fatima says she was locked in a room for giving statement to JIT.

ISLAMABAD: Senior offi­cials of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) on Thurs­day accused its suspended chairman Zafar Hijazi of harassing and pressurising them to close the case of Chaudhry Sugar Mills.

One of them even alleged that she was locked in a room for talking to the Joint Inves­tigation Team (JIT). “On June 14, I was locked in a room for talking to the JIT members and telling them the factual position regarding closing of the mill’s files,” Maheen Fatima, dir­e­ctor and head of department (HOD), Internal Audit and Com­pliance Depart­ment, SECP, told the Senate Standing Committee on Finance.

The SECP officials said Mr Hijazi had called them in his office and directed them to close the file of investigation into the mill in June 2016, but in the back date of 2013.

The committee chairman Saleem Mandviwala said the matter was serious as the image of the SECP had been tarnished by these reports and it was giving a negative signal to the corporate world against the regulator of the country. “That is why the committee has invited the SECP officers whose statements were recorded by the JIT in a case relating to alleged tampering with the record of Chaudhry Sugar Mills.”

The officials called by the committee included Tahir Meh­mood, Commissioner, Com­pany Law Division; Maheen Fatima, the officer dealing with the money-laundering charges against Chaudhry Sugar Mills; Ali Azeem, Executive Director and HOD Insurance Divi­sion; and Abid Hussain, Exe­cutive Director and HOD Company Law Division.

All the officials maintained that the money-laundering investigation against Chaudhry Sugar Mills was initiated under Section 263 of the SECP Act in 2011.

When Senator Mandvi­wala asked who would have been the beneficiary of this act to close the file in back date, Tahir Mahmood said the suspended SECP chairman viewed that closure of the file at the current date (2016) would create problem for the owners of the mill.

Abid Hussain said the possible reason for closing the file in back date might be because of the Panama Papers leaks.

Ali Azeem said: “After I entered the chairman office, Mr Hijazi was annoyed and disrespectfully quizzed me for writing a letter to the UK authorities over the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case. He then directed me to close the file in back date.”

Maheen Fatima told the committee that Mr Hijazi had forced her to stay in a room for three hours for giving the statement to the JIT. “He forced me to give an entirely different statement to the JIT and change my previous statement,” she said, adding that it was due to the interference of her colleagues that she was allowed to leave the room.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2017