LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Thursday grilled Ali Jahangir Siddiqui, an aide to the prime minister and ambassador-designate to the United States, in connection with a case of stock manipulation.

Official sources told Dawn that a combined investigation team of the Lahore NAB had quizzed Mr Siddiqi for 90 minutes regarding the alleged role of his company — M/s Azgard Nine Limited (ANL) — in the manipulation of shares that caused losses of billions of rupees to the national exchequer. “Mr Siddiqui recorded his statement and provided documented details in response to the CIT’s written queries,” a source said, adding that the CIT would once again summon Mr Siddiqui, a director of the ANL, if they felt that his reply was unsatisfactory.

NAB is probing affairs of the ANL with regard to siphoning off funds amounting to 23.7 million euros in 2008, which were used to purchase an Italian Company, Monte Bello SRL. A foreign company, Fairtal SRL, Sweden, was used for the deal, which suffered losses along with its shareholders. There are also allegations that the shares of a company named Agritech Limited were sold to various financial and government institutions at a price higher than the market rate to settle loan defaults. This resulted in a loss of Rs40bn to various financial and government institutions, says NAB.

NAB has also received an investigation report from the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), which looked into this case about a decade ago. The Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) has also reportedly provided details of a business deal and a shares transaction by the ANL and Agritech Limited.

According to the SECP’s investigation report, a copy of which is available with Dawn, the ANL had indulged in “active manipulative trading” during the review period (2007-08). In its report titled “On the manipulative and other prohibitive activities into ANL 2007-08”, the SECP concluded that the JS Group had orchestrated a scheme of manipulation in the scrip (primarily known as a document acknowledging debt) of the ANL during the period under review.

Foreign Office Spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal did not respond to Dawn’s queries about whether the government would consider reviewing its decision to appoint Mr Siddiqui as ambassador to the US.

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2018