FIA told to glean more evidence against Tareen

Published May 28, 2021
In this file photo, Jahangir Tareen speaks to the media in Lahore. — DawnNewsTV/File
In this file photo, Jahangir Tareen speaks to the media in Lahore. — DawnNewsTV/File

LAHORE: A day after the Jahangir Khan Tareen group claimed securing a ‘clean chit’ for their leader from PTI Senator Barrister Ali Zafar, adviser to prime minister on accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar rushed to Lahore on Thursday and directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to ‘glean more evidence’ against the sugar baron (Tareen) in the sugar scam.

Mr Akbar took the briefing on the scam from FIA Lahore in the face of the Tareen group’s claim that Prime Minister Imran Khan had separated him (Akbar) from this case.

Mr Akbar’s visit to FIA offices is significant as the agency has to file a complete investigation report before the court in Tareen and his son Ali Tareen’s cases in three days on May 31. The court, during the last hearing, had warned the FIA investigating officer of action if he failed to complete the investigation by May 31.

During his ‘sudden’ visit here, FIA Director Mohammad Rizwan briefed him about the progress in the scam and other cases. “Mr Akbar told the investigators to glean more evidence in the sugar scam and carry out the probe independently,” a source told Dawn.

He also reportedly told the investigators that the government would develop better coordination among financial institutions and the FIA regarding investigation into money laundering and other financial crimes.

Mr Akbar also appreciated the performance of the FIA (Lahore) which was termed ‘unsatisfactory’ by Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid during his visit here last week.

Mr Akbar was not available for a comment on the Tareen saga when Dawn contacted him. However, in a tweet, Akbar said: “Criminal investigations are the absolute purview of investigating agencies and the PTI government believes in independence of institutions, rule of law & accountability across the board. PM @ImranKhanPTI commitment to the process of accountability and justice remains unshakable.”

He was referring to Barrister Zafar’s analysis of the FIA sugar scam probe into the cases against Tareen, highlighting that there had been no ‘legal significance’ of the report prepared by individuals.

The government has already declared that there will be no impact of Barrister Zafar’s findings in the FIA investigation in the Tareen cases. “To prosecute Mr Tareen and his son, the FIA needs a strong case and this is what Mr Akbar told the investigators today,” the source said, adding ‘weak evidence’ meant both getting off the hook.

Since a group of over 30 ruling lawmakers started backing Tareen over a month ago, the FIA’s investigation into the scam had apparently slowed down. Before this, the FIA had initiated action against 40 Satta agents (sugar pricing manipulators), a number of mill owners, including two of media groups, federal minister Khusro Bakhtiar and PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz.

On Wednesday, the Tareen group claimed that Barrister Zafar had completed his probe and given a ‘clean chit’ to its leader (Tareen) which was denied both by Mr Akbar and Mr Zafar. “We are also concerned over Mr Akbar’s getting active in the Tareen case despite PM Khan’s assurance that he (Akbar) had been separated from this probe,” a member of the Tareen group told Dawn on Thursday.

MNA Raja Riaz, a spokesperson for Mr Tareen’s group of lawmakers, had claimed: “Barrister Zafar has absolved Mr Tareen of all charges of Satta (sugar pricing manipulation), sugar price hike and any other illegal work in sugar related matters. Barrister Zafar had briefed Shahzad Akbar and Jahangir Tareen in a meeting on Tuesday in Islamabad on his findings about the sugar scam probe. Mr Zafar told them that Mr Tareen had not been found guilty of the charges framed by the FIA.”

Mr Riaz also said that Barrister Zafar had recommended that Mr Tareen’s case should be forwarded to the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) as FIA had nothing to do with it.

Barrister Zafar had said: “Any findings, not necessarily in writing, shall be purely internal to the PTI and have no legal value or status nor can the same have any relevance to or affect pending inquiries/investigations against the sugar barons or Mr Tareen.”

The FIA in March last had registered two FIRs against Jahangir Tareen and his son Ali Tareen under Rs5 billion money laundering and fraud charges in the sugar scam.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2021

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