LAHORE: A team of the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) raided the head office of a sugar mill of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)’s ‘isolated’ leader Jahangir Tareen and seized office record here on Friday.
The raid came a day after Mr Tareen, former secretary general of the ruing PTI disqualified by the Supreme Court in 2018 for misstatement in the court and not declaring his foreign property in election candidatures, submitted a written reply to Federal Investigation Agency (FIA)’s call-up notices regarding the sugar scam in which sugar barons jacked up prices by allegedly suspending or reducing supplies of the sweetener to the market.
A joint investigation team (JIT), led by FIA Director General Wajid Zia, had found the sugar millers guilty of misuse of public money and cartelisation leading to massive increase in sugar prices.
The CCP is also investigating the cartelisation by sugar millers and in this respect raided the head-office of the Jamal Din Wali (JDW) Mills’ headquarters in the Punjab capital and seized its record.
The authority had earlier inspected the record of Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) offices both in the federal and Punjab capitals on Sept 14 and seized some hard copies and computer files of the record.
An official of the CCP said they found exchange of e-mails between the PSMA and a senior official of the JDW Mills which contained sensitive trade information such as sugar stock position on the mill and district level and even sugarcane crushing volume, sugar production, recovery ratio, past sugar production, sugar sales volume and its ratio.
The raid at the PSMA offices was followed by indications to anti-competitive activities of the association like collective stoppage of crushing in season 2019-20, collective hike in sugar prices and refusal to supply sugar to the Utility Stores Corporation.
Inspection of a WhatsApp group of the PSMA revealed that the same senior official of the JDW group was in the constant know of sugar prices and stock data, the CCP official said.
The records seized from the PSMA also showed that the same official had been appointed by the PSMA as a focal person in 2012 for the sugar stock position and was in the constant know of sensitive information about the sugar industry, the CCP official claimed.
He said the CCP feared that the involvement of the official in sharing sensitive information about sugar prices, quantities and stock positions raised concerns about the JDW group’s involvement in anti-competitive activities in violation of the Competition Act.
The JDW group comprising five sugar mills with around 20 per cent share in sugar business is owned by Mr Tareen, who is presently “undergoing medical treatment in London”, as per his reply to the FIA notice.
A close aide of Mr Tareen said that like the JIT and FIA, the CCP was raising the same questions which the JDW group had ‘comprehensively’ responded to and that was why “no act of omission or wrong by the group has so far been brought forward by any agency”.
A CCP official said: “It is suspected from the analysis of data impounded from the PSMA offices that the compilation, consolidation and distribution of sensitive commercial information was done using the PSMA’s platform. This information could lead to possible proof and corroboration of collusive activity and cartelisation in the sugar industry, he added Cartelisation is violation of the Competition Act.
Kalbe Ali in Islamabad also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2020