ISLAMABAD: The government has accused former prime minister Nawaz Sharif of receiving kickbacks and commission in the Rs105 billion New Islamabad International Airport (NIIA) project.

Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar claimed that the money received as kickbacks and commission was injected into the accounts of Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM), which is owned by members of the Sharif family.

“The owner of private construction firm Technical Associates is a relative of Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz. During the construction of the airport, Chaudhry Sugar Mills received an amount of Rs507 million and Shujaat Azeem, former special assistant to the prime minister on aviation, also received Rs50m from the same construction firm,” Mr Akbar said.

He claimed that there were many flaws in the contract for the NIIA project, adding that delay in completion of the project and increase in its cost from Rs33bn to Rs105bn was ignored by the former prime minister for obvious reasons.

Shahzad Akbar says money was injected into Sharifs-owned Chaudhry Sugar Mills

Mr Akbar, who has recently been given the charge of the minister of state for interior, said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was investigating three separate cases relating to the NIIA project.

He said the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had also initiated an inquiry, but it was stopped by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government. “We are again opening that inquiry,” he added.

He said the previous PML-N government had held the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) responsible for irregularities and delay in completion of the new airport and on that basis the contractor went into arbitration. The company won the case and got damages it had claimed, he added.

The PM’s special assistant said that the major contract for the project was given to a company called Technical Associates which, according to him, is owned by individuals with close links to the Sharifs. “Serious changes were made in the design of project’s PC-1 and as a result the project cost jumped from Rs33bn to Rs105bn,” he added.

He displayed a cheque from Technical Associates for Rs50m and claimed that it was withdrawn by Shujaat Azeem. “If this is not a kickback then it is a conflict of interest,” he added.

Mr Akbar raised 10 points to prove how the Sharif family used the CSM for receiving kickbacks and commission in the airport project, turning black money into white money and sending public money abroad. “Chaudhry Sugar Mills is glaring example of ‘corporate fraud’,” he said.

He called upon Nawaz Sharif to give an answer to the 10 questions he had asked earlier in addition to the points he raised in Thursday’s press conference.

He referred to a number of other transactions which, he claimed, were connected one way or the other to the Chaudhry Sugar Mills.

As there was a growing trend of obtaining loans and then getting them written off in the 1990s, the Chaudhry Sugar Mills had been established in 1992, he said, adding that a foreign loan of $15m was obtained to establish the mill and to purchase machinery for it.

“Instead of going to a bank, these people created a shell corporation called Chadron Jersey Limited and took a loan from it. The terms of the loan were set in such a manner that the bank — instead of providing Rs15m directly — will send the money to this company, which will procure the machinery for the mill and send the same to Pakistan,” he said.

Talking about the health of Nawaz Sharif, Mr Akbar said that his six-week bail period was over and the Punjab government had sent the third letter to him, seeking his medical reports from the UK.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2020

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