In a show of support, Punjab lawmakers from the ruling PTI accompanied sugar baron Jahangir Tareen to court on Wednesday where he and his son had to appear for an extension in their interim bail in cases filed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
Lala Tahir Randhawa, Raja Riaz, Noman Langrial, Salman Naeem, Ghulam Bibi Bharwana, Khurram Leghari and Abdul Hai Dasti showed up to support Tareen at his hearing.
Speaking to the media, PTI MNA Raja Riaz said that PM Imran would not have been successful in winning the vote of confidence from parliament in March without Tareen.
"Tareen played the biggest part in obtaining the vote of confidence. Perhaps the prime minister would not have been successful if Tareen had not played his part."
He said that Tareen had played a part in forming the Punjab and federal government. "Now people close to the prime minister are hatching conspiracies against Tareen and exacting revenge."
He stated that all the MPAs and MNAs that had gathered for today's hearing were united in denouncing the "injustice" against Tareen. "We think the prime minister should take action against this."
Tareen denies parting ways with PTI
Meanwhile, Tareen denied that he was parting ways with the party and questioned why his "loyalty is being tested".
"I have given my blood and sweat [for the PTI]. Do you think I can separate from the party? Absolutely not." He said he was and will continue to remain a part of the PTI and also denied reports of a future meeting with PPP Chairman Asif Ali Zardari.
During today's press talk, Tareen also lashed out at the action initiated against him and his family.
He said that there were currently three FIRs registered against him. "For the past year, after the sugar inquiry commission, these things have been happening against me. I have remained silent for one year. What more proof do you need of my loyalty?"
He said his loyalty was being tested and questioned why he was being singled out among the owners of sugar mills across the country.
"The injustice is increasing," he said, adding that his and his son Ali Tareen's bank accounts had been frozen without any development in the case concerned. "Why was this done? Who is benefitting from this, who is behind this?"
The disgruntled leader said he was asking for "insaaf from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf".
"I was a friend. Why are you pushing me to become an enemy?" he asked. He also advised the party to keep him as a friend.
He asked the prime minister to expose those exacting revenge against him. "Only the prime minister and the loyal supporters of the party can do that."
Tareen exploring 'political options'
Tareen's statement comes a day after PPP's Syeda Shehla Raza claimed that a meeting between Zardari and the disgruntled PTI leader had been scheduled for next week.
“There is a possibility that Tareen may join the PPP along with his supporters. If this happens then both [Prime Minister Imran Khan] Niazi and [Punjab Chief Minister Usman] Buzdar will be sent packing,” she had said in a tweet that was later deleted.
She had also said that Tareen held a meeting (in this regard) with PPP leader and former Punjab governor Makhdoom Ahmad Mahmood, who is his relative.
However, both Tareen and Mahmood had denied their meeting on this matter.
“No truth in reports about my meeting with PPP leadership and joining it [the party of Bhutto]. A constant propaganda campaign is being run against me,” Tareen had said in a statement.
Talking to Dawn, Mahmood had said: “All of this [meeting reports] is completely fake.”
However, he did not offer any comment when asked as to why senior leaders like Raza would speak about the meeting with Tareen if it did not take place.
Meanwhile, a PPP leader from Punjab had told Dawn that some important political players would soon reposition themselves in the face of the PTI government’s failure on every front, especially on economy.
“Tareen, who feels betrayed by his friend Imran Khan, has the support of some lawmakers and he is carefully playing his cards. He knows that FIA’s action against him is not possible without the approval of Imran, for whom he had spent his bucks and used his clout to bring him into power,” he had said and confirmed that Tareen and the PPP leadership had been in contact.
“It is the PTI top leadership that has pushed Tareen to explore other political options,” he added.
After virtually coming out of the opposition alliance — Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) — the PPP gets active to fancy its chances to form its government at the Centre in the future.
“PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is also keen to perform well in Punjab in next general elections and for this purpose he is looking up to stalwarts like Tareen,” the PPP leader had said, adding that Tareen had asked some PTI lawmakers, who are close to him, to accompany him to court on Wednesday.
Tareen, son booked for money laundering
Last week, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had registered two more FIRs against Tareen and his family members facing over Rs5 billion money laundering and fraud charges in the sugar scam.
The FIA’s Lahore circle had registered both the FIRs against the estranged PTI leader, his son Ali Tareen, son-in-law and others on March 22 and sealed them. However, it had opened the FIRs last week ‘on an order from the top’ and initiated legal proceedings against those nominated.
A total of four FIRs have been registered against Tareen and others since November last in connection with the multi-billion-rupee sugar scam but the FIA has yet to lay its hands on them.
According to the new FIRs, Jahangir Tareen “fraudulently misappropriated shareholder’s money after his company, JDW group, transferred Rs3.14bn to an associated private company — Farooqi Pulp Pvt Ltd (FPML), Gujrat, which is owned by his son and close relatives.
“During 2011-2012 when fraudulent investments were made being pumped into FPML accounts, Treen, his son Ali and other family members purchased US dollars from the open market in Lahore in a structured manner (keeping each transaction below FMUs STR/CTR reporting threshold of US$35,000 to avoid detection). Subsequently, in 2016, Ali Tareen remitted US$7.4m to the UK for the purchase of properties (to be investigated) which makes them liable for anti-money laundering investigation.”
The FIA said: “A premeditated scheme of misappropriation of public shareholders’ money by Jahangir Tareen has surfaced whereby voluminous withdrawals amounting to at least Rs2.2 billion were fraudulently and dishonestly made through a trusted cash rider Amir Waris (from 2017 to 2020). Waris employed as a cashier at JDW’s Corporate Head Office, deposited huge cash amounts into the personal and business accounts of Tareen and his family members including females.” The FIR mentioned the names of the Tareen family women on whose accounts a huge sum of money had been deposited.
It said: “This modus operandi of cash-based misappropriation and money laundering was employed to break the onwards money trail of deposits into personal and business accounts of the accused Tareen and family.”
Both FIRs were registered under sections 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating of public shareholders) and 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), read with sections 3/4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act against all those mentioned in the FIRs.
Sugar probe report
Last year, a sugar inquiry commission, headed by FIA chief Wajid Zia and comprising officials from other institutions, was set up on the orders of Prime Minister Imran Khan to investigate the reasons behind the soaring price and shortage of the commodity in the country.
The commission's report, which was made public by the government in April, exposed multiple wrongdoings within the sugar industry and implicated key government and opposition political figures, including Tareen, PML-Q MNA Moonis Elahi, federal minister Khusro Bakhtiar and PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif's son.
The report detailed how over the years sugar mill owners had manipulated the market to make windfall profits amounting to billions of rupees, shedding light on the nexus between these owners and various government officials that led to unregulated practices bypassing laws and often exploiting the farmers.
It also revealed how the ‘sugar cartel’ comprising 88 mills had cheated sugarcane growers and consumers at every step starting from the procurement of cane, production of sugar, sale in the local market and export, all of which led to price hike of sugar as well as billions of rupees of tax evasion.