The Senate's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday asked the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to probe the controversy surrounding the sale of a Pakistan International Airlines plane.

Earlier this year, PAC had found that a PIA plane had gone missing. However, later it was revealed that the plane had been sold to a German museum.

The flight-worthy airplane was sold to the museum in Leipzig even though permission had not ben sought, senators had said in March. No agreements were signed and the PIA did not receive any advance payment for the sale of the A-310, they had added.

PIA Spokesperson Mashhood Tajwar had said that the plane had not gone missing but rather, it was in Germany where it had been flown after being chartered to a British company for picturising a movie in Malta.

As the PAC reviewed audit objections in connection with the aviation sector, Committee Chairman Khursheed Shah, said that the issue of the 'missing' plane brought a bad name to Pakistan.

"How come a plane of the national flag carrier reached Germany without any due process?" Shah asked. He ordered NAB to investigate the matter and find out who had ordered the name of former acting chief executive officer (CEO) of the airline, Bernd Hildenbrand, to be removed from the Exit Control List (ECL).

In September, a minister had said that the former CEO had taken the plane home while leaving Pakistan.

Earlier, Hildenbrand's name had been placed on the ECL after a number of corruption charges were made against him, including a charge that he had sold the 'missing' plane to a museum in Germany. Hildenbrand had gone on leave and was later removed from the post. His name was struck off the ECL and he is believed to be in Germany.

During Tuesday's meeting, the chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) told the committee that a Malta-based film production company had hired the plane against $210,000. Later the plane was directly flown from Malta to a museum in Germany.

The chairman also told the committee that the foreign adviser of the PIA who had finalised the deal was an employee of the same company which was purchasing the plane.

Shah vowed to bring the matter to its logical end and asked for the record of the foreign trips taken by high-ranking officials of PIA over the past year.

In addition, the PAC also reviewed the issue of constructing 15 bridges for passengers at the new Islamabad International Airport.

Audit officials told the PAC that irregularities worth Rs5.99 billion have been found in the contracts for the construction of these bridges.

According to their findings, the cost of the bridges was mentioned as Rs2.57bn in the project's Planning Commission form 1, whereas the CAA engineers had estimated the cost of the project at Rs4.77bn.

Shah constituted a four-member committee, which will be chaired by Senator Sherry Rahman, to look into the matter.

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