PM wants sugar scam inquiry taken to logical end

Published June 10, 2020
Directive issued to bring sugar price down. — AFP/File
Directive issued to bring sugar price down. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered an inquiry into the sugar scam and reaffirmed that anyone involved in it would not be spared.

He issued these directives while chairing a meeting of the federal cabinet on Tuesday.

The prime minister issued directives for bringing down the prices of sugar.

The meeting approved recent decisions of the Eco­nomic Coordination Commi­ttee, including layoff of over 9,000 employees of the Pakistan Steel Mills.

On Sunday, the prime minister had approved a massive investigation thro­ugh accountability organisations against the ‘sugar cartel’ allegedly involved in a multi-billion rupee scam for the past 25 years.

The National Accounta­bility Bureau (NAB), Fed­eral Investigation Agency (FIA), Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) will investigate allegations like creating artificial shortage, profiteering, tax evasion and receiving undue export subsidies against sugar barons.

According to a press release, the cabinet app­roved investigation against the sugar industry as the prime minister stuck to his position that action should be taken against everyone involved in the scam irrespective of their status and political affiliation.

But in a veiled reference to the departure abroad of ruling party’s stalwart Jahangir Tareen, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz blamed the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government for helping the ‘ATM’ flee the country even though he was a prime suspect in the sugar scam.

The meeting was infor­med that action against 88 sugar mill owners was exp­ected in the light of recommendations made in the recent Sugar Forensic Com­m­ission (SFC) report that exposed several bigwigs in the scam, including Jahan­gir Tareen, a brother of federal minister Khusro Bakh­tiar, and sons of Shahbaz Sharif, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly.

Subsidies given by the federal or provincial governments, including the PTI government in Punjab, will be investigated.

The meeting was apprised that political families entered the sugar business during the 1990s and since then they had crushed everyone else in the industry.

The PM was informed that NAB would investigate the Rs29 billion given in subsidies to sugar mills on export during the last five years.

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is likely to probe charges of fraud in sales tax, the practice by mill owners to understate their incomes and to carry out benami transactions. The FBR was directed to ensure that adjudication on cases and recoveries start within 90 days.

The cabinet also approved investigation of cartelisation by the CCP after reports emerged that sugar mills were minting money through price manipulation. A new team was constituted for the task and told to submit its report within 90 days.

The SBP will investigate the companies that showed fake exports and were involved in default on loans or sold pledged stocks. The SBP will submit a report to the finance ministry within 90 days and mention companies and their frauds by name, besides imposing heavy fines on violators.

Similarly, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) will investigate corporate fraud, stock fraud, shareholder fraud and other types of corporate fraud.

The FIA will investigate the matter of fake exports to Afghanistan and money laundering.

The prime minister expressed his desire to overhaul the regulatory framework.

Under the PM’s directives, a committee will be formed to determine the cost of production and the price of sugar. The committee will be headed by Industries Minister Hammad Azhar.

The cabinet approved a recent decision of the ECC regarding laying off of PSM employees. “The prime minister was of the view that the burden of sick state entities should not be put on people’s shoulders,” said a press release.

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2020

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