ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Finance has raised doubts over whether the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has been concealing certain facts regarding alleged corruption and money laundering in the Multan Metro Bus case.
Senator Saleem Mandviwala, chairman of the committee, on Friday expressed his displeasure in a letter written to the SECP, berating them for delaying their response to queries put forward by the Senate body and for deliberately concealing relevant details which the committee had asked for.
“Irrelevant papers have been enclosed but not those asked for by the committee,” stated the letter, referring to a 200-page reply which the SECP had submitted to the committee.
Talking to Dawn, several senators acknowledged that most of the details in the 200-page reply sought to divert attention away from the issue in question — why the SECP had not taken action in this regard for the last nine months.
The alleged Multan Metro Bus corruption case was referred to the SECP by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) in December 2016, but the commission had remained secretive over the matter for a long time. The details had not even been shared with the Ministry of Finance by the now-suspended SECP chairman Zafar Hijazi.
The matter came to the fore during investigations against Chinese company Jiangsu Yabaite Technology Co. Ltd (Yabaite), which is listed at the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, China. The CSRC had noted undue foreign inflows in its accounts.
Yabaite had told the Chinese regulator that it had received the amount after completing some work on the Metro Bus project in Multan, and the CSRC had approached the SECP in December 2016 seeking assistance in obtaining information and certain documents.
Mr Hijazi, however, had not referred the case to the National Accountability Bureau, the Federal Investigation Agency, the finance ministry or the Punjab government. In fact, the papers had not even been shared with the SECP commissioners for almost seven months.
Finally, after pressure from the Punjab government, the SECP forwarded the case to FIA on Aug 30, 2017.
The Punjab government had taken the matter seriously on the grounds that media reports regarding the case had damaged Chief Minister Shabaz Sharif’s reputation.
A member of the Senate standing committee said that had the SECP referred the case to the relevant agencies in a timely manner, the accused would have been arrested. At present, the FIA and Punjab police are looking into the matter and investigating the involvement of contractors.
The letter written by the Senate standing committee has asked the SECP for the names of officers who had dealt with and kept custody of the documents received from the CSRC and whether they had ever conducted investigations into white-collar crimes.
The Senate committee also asked the reasons why only three people — a lawyer, the head of international affairs and then SECP chairman Mr Hijazi — had access to those documents when neither of them had experience in investigating such crimes.
Senator Mohsin Aziz of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf said, “We should remember that when there is smoke, there is fire — why was the SECP trying so hard to hide the facts during this time — we need to probe the matter and we will also be in touch with the Punjab government as it concerns their reputation too.”
The Senate body has asked the SECP to provide the complete set of documents and correspondence exchanged with the CSRC, including emails.
The other query raised by the body is: “Is it a coincident that matter was referred to FIA only after the suspension of Mr Zafar Hijazi?”
The Senate body said that copies of all working papers annexure, minutes of relevant commission meetings and complete information/replies in all aspects should be provided to the committee within seven working days as the SECP has already considerably delayed the matter.
The deadline of seven working days ends on Nov 6.
Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2017