KARACHI: The Federal Investigation Agency has filed a charge sheet against two suspects in a case pertaining to Rs110 billion speculative sugar trade and money laundering.
The FIA had booked and arrested Mohammad Jalil and Mohammad Bilal in March for their alleged involvement in the speculative sugar pricing by the “satta mafia” based in Sindh and Punjab and laundering money through illegal means.
On Tuesday, the investigating officer of the case submitted a charge sheet with Judicial Magistrate (South) Durr-e-Shahwar.
In the charge sheet, the IO stated that the FIA’s State Bank Circle initiated an inquiry into reports that many suspects along with sugar industry barons, brokers and their “satta mafia” were operating in a collusive but secret mode — especially through electronic means/WhatsApp groups — to dishonestly and fraudulently manoeuvre, manipulate and artificially increase sugar prices, amidst hoax of impending sugar stocks’ shortages.
FIA claims ‘satta mafia’ defrauded people of at least Rs110bn by increasing ex-mill price of sugar from Rs69 to Rs90
It added that the suspects were indulging in such acts while sugar stocks were lying unsold or sold/un-lifted in mills and warehouses and the demand-supply gap of the essential commodity was “artificial”.
It further unearthed that the “satta mafia” in addition to their regular personal or business accounts, were also indulging in opening/operating fake/unrelated third party accounts in banks to conceal/disguise the illegitimate crime proceeds. The charge sheet stated that it had come on record that many players of Karachi/Sindh were actively participating in such activity in three main WhatsApp groups.
It claimed that the inquiry team had discovered irrefutable evidence of clandestine speculation through 16 WhatsApp groups whereby the sugar prices were being dishonestly and fraudulently ramped up.
“The satta mafia acting in active connivance with each other operated directly and through their front-men to fraudulently escalate the ex-mill price of sugar from Rs69 per kilogram to Rs90 per kg during the month of March and defrauded the masses of at least Rs110 billion during this period,” the charge sheet stated.
It added that the “satta mafia” managed this dishonest and fraudulent escalation amidst a hoax of impending sugar shortages, when sufficient sugar stocks were lying in the sugar mills and godowns.
“It has been discovered that they were laundering the crime proceeds of sugar satta through various fake/benami/third party accounts and assets,” it added.
It mentioned that the examination of the WhatsApp groups seized by the FIA revealed that over 23 satta players of Karachi/Sindh were actively participating in the offence with the respective sugar mills and in active connivance with satta players of Punjab.
The report claimed that the accused persons used to purchase white refined sugar from the sugar mills in Sindh and Punjab and sold it at exorbitant rates.
The IO mentioned that 35MB data, containing 17,500 pages, had been recovered from the three WhatsApp groups. It further stated that chequebooks and deposit slips and other evidence was collected from the offices of the two detained suspects during raids.
The court has yet to accept or reject the charge sheet.
A case was registered under Sections 406 (punishment for criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating or dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine a fake document), 477-A (falsification of accounts), 109 (abetment) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) read with Sections 3 (offence of money laundering) and 4 (punishment for money laundering) of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010 at the FIA State Bank Circle.
Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2021