NAB decides to dig into Sugar, Wheat scams

-Inquiries ordered into CDA, River Garden, PPL embezzlement

By Shakeel Ahmed

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau on Tuesday said it will begin a “comprehensive” investigation on all aspects of the wheat and sugar scandals in the country.
In a statement released to the media, the anti-graft watchdog said a decision to probe reports of “plunder worth billions of rupees” through smuggling, price gouging, alleged subsidies and other aspects of these crises was taken during a meeting of the bureau’s executive committee, presided by by NAB Chairman Justice (r) Javed Iqbal.
Earlier this year, the country was battling shortages in the supply of both commodities, which had led to a surge in prices, leading to fierce criticism of the government’s policies as an inflation-battered public was left even more burdened.
Under pressure, Prime Minister Imran Khan, amidst allegations his own allies were behind the crises, had announced an inquiry promising strict punishment for anyone found guilty of profiting from these scandals.
On April 4, two reports by the Federal Investigation Agency on the said crises were made public, exposing ruling PTI’s bigwig Jahangir Tareen, Khusro Bakhtiar, PML-Q’s Monis Elahi and their relatives as being involved in the scam and benefiting from export subsidies at a time when the commodity was short in the country.
On April 6, while terming the inquiry reports on sugar and wheat crises in the country “unprecedented”, Prime Minister Imran said he would wait for a detailed forensic report — expected to be released on April 25 — on the matter before taking action against anyone.
He vowed that no powerful lobby would be able to gain undue profit and create an artificial shortage of essential items in the future.
The same day, in a surprise move, the prime minister reshuffled his cabinet for a third time since forming his government in August 2018. Among others, the minister for national food security, Bakhtiar — who was also named as a beneficiary in the FIA reports — was reassigned to t portfolio of economic affairs.
Reports from the same day also suggested Tareen was removed from his position as the chairman of the country’s Agriculture Task Force, but he denied this, saying he was never appointed to any position in the first place.
National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal on Tuesday gave the green signal to start an investigation into the wheat and sugar scandal.
According to a statement, the approval was given by the NAB chairman in a meeting of the executive board held in Islamabad Tuesday.
The chairman has directed the Bureau to thoroughly investigate the wheat and sugar scandal.“NAB will thoroughly investigate the scandal worth billions of rupees. Smuggling, an increase of prices and wheat and sugar subsidies will also be investigated,” the statement said.
The statement added that the executive board also gave the approval to close the inquiry against former attorney general Malik Qayyum due to a lack of evidence along with the closure of inquiry against the officers and staff of the Privatization Commission and the managing committee of the Interior Employees Housing Society.
The executive board also gave approval for two inquires, an investigation into the mega corruption against Pakistan Petroleum and an inquiry into the Capital Development Authority private housing society.
The Executive Board Meeting (EBM) of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday authorized conducting inquiries of the officials of Capital Development Authority, management of River Garden Housing Society and mega corruption cases in Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) for inflicting billion of rupee losses to public exchequer.
According to NAB spokesman, the EBM chaired by chairman NAB Justice Javed authorized conducting comprehensive investigation of the prime mega sugar and wheat scandals including extorsion of billion of rupees, undue price increase, smuggling of wheat/ sugar and subsidy on sugar.
The EBM accorded approval of sending the complaint verification against management of International Islamic University and others to relevant department.
The EBM approved closing inquiries against officers/officials of Privatisation Commission of Pakistan and others, Justice Malik Muhammad Qayyum, former Attorney General of Pakistan and others, Professor Dr Ikramullah Khan, Head of Dermalogy , Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) Islamabad and others, managing committee of Interior Employees Cooperative Housing Society, Raja Ali Akbar and others owing to absence of evidence as per law.
Deputy Chairman ,Prosecutor General Accountability, Director General Operations and other senior officers of NAB attended the meeting.
Chairman NAB said that the anti graft watchdog has filed 610 corruption references in various accountability courts and directly or indirectly recovered record Rs 178 billion from corrupt elements in last two years period and deposited the entire recovered amount into national exchequer.
Right now 1,275 corruption references having accumulated value of Rs 943 billion were under trial in various accountability courts.