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ISLAMABAD: The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has failed to respond to queries forwarded to it by the Senate Standing Committee on Finance over the alleged role of its former chairman, Zafar Hijazi, in the Multan metro bus money laundering case.

The Senate committee forwarded a letter to the SECP on Oct 27, seeking a detailed reply from it by Dec 15 as to why the commission concealed certain facts regarding alleged corruption and money laundering in the Multan metro bus case.

However, despite the passage of more than 40 working days the SECP has failed to submit a detailed reply of the queries to the Senate committee.

According to an official of the Committee secretariat, it has just received a brief interim reply from the corporate sector regulator.

Only a few people in corporate sector regulator know about the corruption allegations

“They did meet the deadline of Dec 15, but it was only an eyewash,” the official said adding: “The reply only states that the detailed response to the queries will be forwarded later by the SECP.”

Sources in the SECP said the whole case related to alleged corruption and money laundering in the Multan metro bus project had been kept closely guarded within a few hands in the SECP.

The Senate committee had also asked why only three people had access to documents forwarded by the Chinese regulatory body over alleged misappropriation and testimonies of several accused conducted by the Chinese regulatory body.

Out of those few people who had access to the documents, former SECP chairman Hijazi and relevant commissioner Akif Saeed had retired on Dec 15. Interestingly, the letter issued by the Senate committee was addressed to Mr Saeed.

In the absence of the relevant commissioner the interim reply has been forwarded by Khalida Habib, head of the SECP’s International Relations Department, who along with the head of the commission’s legal department are two remaining persons having access to original documents forwarded by the Chinese investigators.

The Multan metro bus corruption case was referred to SECP by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) in December last year, but the commission maintained secrecy 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 the 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.

The letter written by the Senate standing committee 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 the white-collar crimes.

The next meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance is scheduled for Dec 19.

Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2017