FIA ready to seek Tareens’ bail cancellation today • SBP freezes 36 bank accounts of sugar baron, family • Imran, Buzdar discuss fallout of PTI lawmakers’ support to estranged leader
LAHORE: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Friday grilled former secretary general of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and sugar baron Jahangir Tareen and his son Ali Tareen on the money laundering and fraud charges in the sugar scam and got 36 bank accounts of his (Tareen) and his family members frozen.
As Prime Minister Imran Khan was also in Lahore, sources said he was assured during a discussion with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on the PTI lawmakers, who had accompanied Mr Tareen to court recently to express solidarity with him, that the group would lose their political clout once his bail was cancelled and he was taken into custody.
The FIA would seek cancellation of their bail from court on Saturday (today) to arrest the father and son, an official source said.
Unlike his appearance before a special court for banking offences for the extension of his pre-arrest bail a few days ago when some PTI lawmakers, including a Punjab minister, accompanied him showing his ‘political power’, Mr Tareen chose to visit FIA’s Lahore headquarters alone on Friday and threw a dinner for around two dozen party lawmakers, including two ministers, at his residence in the evening.
During his visit to the FIA office, his legal team was with him but it remained outside as a five-member team, headed by FIA (Lahore) Director Mohammad Rizwan, quizzed Mr Tareen for 90 minutes regarding allegations of sugar price manipulation, money trail and money laundering against him. Separately, his son Ali also responded to the investigators’ queries for over an hour.
Talking to Dawn, an official source said: “As both the father and son could not provide a money trail of Rs4.35bn related to the sale of JKFSL’s sugarcane business assets and liabilities, and [could not] offer satisfactory reply regarding [it] and some other business transactions and money laundering charges, the FIA has decided to seek cancellation of their bail from the court on Saturday [today] to arrest them.”
The official said the FIA also got 36 bank accounts of Mr Tareen and his family members frozen. “Response of Mr Tareen to most queries was evasive. The father and the son could not also provide relevant record of business transactions as most record was missing,” he reasoned.
The sources said action against the old friend of Mr Khan, also called kingmaker by some ruling PTI members, was being taken after the prime minister had given the go ahead. The FIA also summoned the heads of finance and sales of Indus Sugar Mills, Rajanpur, of PTI MNA Nasrullah Darashik for April 15.
The sources privy to the meeting between PM Khan and CM Buzdar said a discussion was also held on the PTI MNAs and MPAs who had accompanied Mr Tareen to the court to express solidarity with him. The meeting, they said, was assured that the group would lose any clout once Mr Tareen was arrested following the cancellation of his bail, probably on Saturday (today).
Raja Riaz, provincial minister Nauman Langrial, Ghulam Bibi Bharwana, Nazir Baloch, Suleman Naeem, Khurram Leghari, Aslam Bharwana, Ameer Mohammad Khan and Tahir Randhawa were among those who had pledged their loyalty to the former secretary general of the PTI and sought ‘justice’ for him from Mr Khan.
“PM Khan has been told about the ‘exact number’ of those PTI lawmakers who are standing with Mr Tareen. However, Mr Khan seems to be in no hurry to initiate any action against them [despite] knowing that this may bring further trouble for him,” a PTI insider said.
“For Mr Tareen, time is running out fast to explore other political options for him,” he said, adding Mr Tareen still enjoyed ‘good relations’ with the establishment that was why a good number of PTI lawmakers were firmly standing behind him. “The powers that be will not wish to let ‘this important asset’ wasted so easily,” he remarked.
Earlier, Mr Tareen had warned his party chairman not to make him his enemy. “I remained silent for one year. What else is required to prove my loyalty to the party? I was a friend. Why am I being pushed towards enmity?” he had asked.
In the meantime, the FIA wrote to the State Bank of Pakistan to freeze the bank accounts of Mr Tareen and his family members. “On this, 36 of their banks accounts have been frozen,” the official said.
The FIA investigators asked Mr Tareen, being then CEO of JDW Sugar Mills, if he intentionally defrauded 1,200 public shareholders. “By purchasing sugarcane business of your family’s company (JK Farming Systems Ltd / JKFSL: CEO Ali Khan Tareen) through suppressing ‘fair value’ evaluation resulting in payment of (an exorbitant, non-arms length & premeditated price) Rs4.358bn from JDW’s funds (under your fiduciary control as CEO JDW) to JKFSL; thereby transferring financial gains (crime-proceeds) to your family at the cost of public shareholders.”
The FIA asked him as the CEO of JDW what due-diligence measures (provide evidence) he took in determining that Rs4.35bn was a fair-value? “As CEO JDW did you inform BOD that JKFSL was a loss-making entity with accumulated losses of Rs326 million (FY ending 30th April 2013)? What was the rationale behind assuming high per-acre yields & high sugar cane rates (in connivance with JDW/JKFSL’s management) thereby inflating Rs2.135 billion historical value of JKFSL’ standing crops (biological assets to Rs2.94 billion in the name of far value adjustment) without engaging any agricultural expert?”
The official source said: “There was no answer to these specific questions.”
Meanwhile, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) also summoned former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s close aide Javed Kiyani for the sugar crisis probe. According to Geo News, Kiyani is currently the vice chairman of the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association and was a co-accused with the ex-premier in the Hudaibya Paper Mills case.