–Shahzad Akbar terms sugar probe report a charge-sheet against former PM Abbasi
–Abbasi says PM Imran, Punjab CM Buzdar, Asad Umar ‘real culprits behind sugar scam’
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar on Saturday said that the government would file criminal cases against the people named in the sugar probe.
Addressing a press conference on the ongoing sugar corruption inquiries, he targetted the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), saying the party “is struggling to read and understand the inquiry report”.
Singling out former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Shahzad Akbar said that he has been “lying consistently” on the matter. Akbar said that the inquiry commission has put out a charge sheet against Abbasi with the report and he has to be answerable for that.
Abbasi, earlier in the day, had accused the government of supporting sugar barons and said: “[PM] Imran, [former finance minister] Asad Umar, and [Chief Minister Punjab] Usman Buzdar are the real culprits behind the sugar scam.”
Akbar claimed that according to the report, Abbasi gave a subsidy worth Rs20 billion within 24 hours for export. He said that this sugar was unaccounted for and was sold in the black market while carrying no taxes. He claimed that Abbasi failed to provide documentary evidence to support his claims of fair practice in front of the sugar inquiry commission.
The accountability czar said that 50pc of the sugarcane procured during the year 2017-19 was not declared nor the sugar produced from it was shown in the papers. “Business was done on kachi parchi in Al Arabia Mills [owned by Shehbaz Sharif’s sons],” he said.
Akbar stated that the commission summoned Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah for inquiry, but he refrained from appearance.
He said that the inquiry commission affixed the responsibility of the corruption on betting agents who have been working in collusion with sugar mills across the country.
Akbar stressed that all sugar mills in the country needed to be audited on priority to see where kickbacks, malpractice, and embezzlement took place.
He added that the corruption cases of the past and these new revelations differ invariably and the national accountability bureau (NAB) is independent to proceed on the report as they deem fit.
Earlier this month, the government’s inquiry commission formed to probe the hike in sugar prices accused major sugar mills in the country of “underreported sales and fraud”. The commission found irregularities in the form of giving advance payments to farmers in the form of cash or commodity, which is akin to unregulated banking.
A subsidy of Rs29bn was given to the sugar industry in the last five years, it said.
“A mill called Alliance from Rahim Yar Khan — partially owned by Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q) senior leader Moonis Elahi — was audited. It showed that between 2014 to 2018, 11-14 per cent systematic cut was done for farmers, which translated to Rs970 million and was a huge blow to them,” Akbar had said quoting the commission.
He had said that it was found that total income tax of around 88 sugar mills of the country is Rs10bn, after getting a tax refund.
He had added that the mill under-reported sugar sales “for years” and sold the commodity to unnamed buyers. The report mentioned violations of the Pakistan Penal Code, he said.
Akbar had also mentioned the JDW sugar mill in which PTI stalwart Jahangir Tareen owns 21 per cent shares. He said that according to the report, the mill committed “double booking, under-reporting and over-invoicing”.
“The report noted that the mill under-invoiced sales from bagasse and molasses which resulted in 25 per cent cost inflation. They also committed corporate fraud whereby money was transferred from their PLC to their private company.
“Forward sales, satta, benami sales have all been associated with JDW too.”
The Al Arabiya mill owned by Suleman Shehbaz was also audited, the PM’s aide had said, adding that it was found to have committed fraud worth Rs400 million through informal receipts and market manipulation.