LAHORE: Estranged Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader and sugar baron Jahangir Khan Tareen finally got a ‘relief’ amid the federal budget presentation as the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) did not seek his and his son Ali Tareen’s arrest before two courts, citing lack of ‘incriminating evidence’ against them in the money laundering and sugar scam cases.
Lawmakers backing Mr Tareen had threatened Prime Minister Imran Khan that they would not vote for the budget both in the Centre and Punjab if ‘justice’ was not rendered to their leader (Tareen) in what they called ‘fake cases’ (against him).
Following the FIA’s submission to two different courts on Friday that it did not need to arrest Mr Tareen and his son ‘at this stage of the inquiry’, both suspects withdrew their pre-arrest bail petitions in three FIRs in the sugar scam.
Sources in the FIA told Dawn that Mr Tareen had been given relief on ‘technical grounds’. “The forensic of the evidence collected by the FIA Lahore in March last under which the agency had registered three FIRs against Tareen and his son in the sugar scam has yet to be done despite a passage of over two months,” a source told Dawn.
Family’s personal accounts unfreezed, other mills named in price manipulation may also benefit
Similarly, he said in order to ensure relief to Tareen, the FIA was told not to expedite action against several sugar mills, including the owners of two media groups, the mills in which federal minister Khusro Bakhtiar and his family members have shares, and 40 Satta agents (price manipulators).
“FIA Lahore Director Mohammad Riazwan who had registered FIRs against some 30 sugar mills , including Tareens’, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz and Satta agents had declared that the agency would arrest Mr Tareen and others once forensic audit of the collected evidence from the Satta agents (which have links with the mills in question) was received. “But once the government reached an understanding with the Tareen group, Mr Rizwan was removed as head the investigation team and forensic audit was not pursued. This is a major relief for all those investigated at least for the time being,” he said.
The FIA had earlier claimed Rs110 billion earning by the sugar mafia during the last one year through ‘speculative pricing’.
Another official insisted the FIA needed at least two more months to collect more evidence against Mr Tareen and his son in money laundering case as it was not easy to detect money trail in such cases.
Mr Tareen and his family members’ personal bank accounts have also been unfreezed. “Now only business bank accounts of Tareen are frozen,” the official said.
The FIA’s ‘go-slow’ in the Tareens’ cases had come in the backdrop of PTI Senator Barrister Ali Zafar’s analysis of its probe in which the Tareen group’s MNA Raja Riaz claimed that he (Tareen) had been given a clean chit by him (Zafar).
When Dawn asked whether the FIA’s stance in favour of the Tareens in the court had come in the light of his report, Mr Zafar said: “No… I have not yet submitted my findings to Prime Minister Imran Khan. However, whatever my findings are, they have no legal impact.”
When asked he was supposed to submit his report to the premier by May-end, the PTI Senator said: “PM Khan has not yet asked him to submit the report.”
The government is likely to forward the matter of Tareen and his son to the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) ‘on the wish’ of the Tareen group whose number is said be 40 – 29 MPAs and over 10 MNAs.
COURT HEARING: During the hearing of the bail in two FIRs against Tareen and his son, FIA investigating officer Rana Shahwaz told a sessions court on Friday that the arrest of Tareen and his son Ali Tareen was not required at this stage. He said the investigation had not been completed so far and the record of the case was still being examined.
The IO claimed the FIA fully believed in fundamental human rights. Asked if he was ready to record his statement in writing, the IO said the court could place his statement on the record.
In response to the FIA’s statement, Tareen’s counsel Barrister Salman Safdar told the court that his clients wanted to withdraw the bail petitions. Additional District & Sessions Judge Hamid Hussain asked the counsel as to how many cases had been made against Tareen since he was the CEO of the sugar mills since 1990.
Barrister Sadar said not a single case had been made by any agency or regulatory body against Tareen. The judge disposed of the bail petitions as withdrawn.
Later, Tareen and his son appeared before Additional District & Sessions Judge Rafaqat Ali Gondal, who heard their bail petition in the third FIR as duty judge for a special court (Offences in Banks).
The special court has been awaiting a regular presiding officer since the transfer of the predecessor on May 19.
The FIA’s IO gave a similar statement before the special court and said the arrest of the duo father and son was not required at this stage of the case. The judge placed the statement of the IO on record and disposed of the bail petitions as withdrawn.
The judge directed the FIA to give 10 days to the petitioners to approach the courts if it required their arrest in future.
Talking to reporters, Mr Tareen said: “I am so happy that after a 10-month long investigation of his and his mills’ officials, the FIA admitted before the courts that their arrests were not required.” However, the sugar mogul said he always faced the law and would continue to do so.
The Tareen group had named adviser to the prime minister on accountability Shahzad Akbar behind victimisation of Tareen. MPA Nazir Chohan, a member of the Tareen group, had even gone to the extend of challenging his (Akbar’s) faith.
Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2021