ISLAMABAD, Jun 07 (APP):Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Accountability Shehzad Akbar on Sunday said the government had decided to send the Rs 29 billion sugar subsidy matter to National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for criminal investigation.
Addressing a news conference along with Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz, the SAPM said the prime minister had approved his recommendation under which a reference covering last five-year subsidies and previous subsidies of 20-25 years would be sent to the NAB.
He said the government wanted to hold a thorough and transparent investigation so that all those who had violated rules and regulations, and received illegal benefits and caused damage to the national kitty could be brought to book no matter how powerful or influential they were.
Shehzad Akbar said manipulation in the sugar industry increased when the political families started taking interest in the business.
The prime minister, he said, was clear about an across the board accountability, irrespective of any political affiliations, wealth and influence. His recommendations to the PM included punishment and recoveries in the light of Sugar Inquiry Commission’s report, besides overhauling of regulatory framework and rationalizing the sugar prices on the basis of actual cost of production.
The SAPM said the matters relating to Benami accounts and transactions, tax evasion and similar issues would be sent to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) for investigation.
He said the commission, in its report, had revealed fraud in the sales tax and less payment of income tax by the sugar mill owners. The FBR had been directed to look into the matters and complete its proceedings within 90 days for further action as it involved recovery, he added.
He said the Board had also been asked to conduct an audit of all the sugar mills, expressing the confidence that a significant amount on account of tax evasion and sales tax etc. would be recovered from them.
The Hamza Sugar Mills had was involved in causing a loss of about Rs 4.07 billion to the national exchequer on account of tax evasion, sales tax etc, in two years, he claimed.
Shehzad Akbar said the FBR had also been asked to make recovery from the accused, besides taking action against them under intimation to the Federal Government. The FBR’s performance in that regard would be monitored by the office of accountability, he added.
He said the matter of cartelization in the sugar industry was being referred to the Competitive Commission of Pakistan (CCP) for action, which would present its report in 90 days. Major changes had been made in the CCP to make it a more effective body and it would hopefully come up to the people’s expectations and punish the elements involved in cartelization, besides recovering the manipulated money.
The SAPM said the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) would look into the sugar mills’ loans and fake exports and would to submit its report in that regard to the Federal Government within 90 days.
Similarly, he said, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had been tasked to probe the sugar export issue. The Agency would also investigate the money-laundering committed in the name of sugar within 90 days.
The FIA would also probe the export of sugar to Afghanistan, he added.
Shehzad Akbar said it had also been decided to investigate how sugar mills had enhanced their production capacity without approval of the government. “The issue of extra crushing is also a violation of provincial laws,” he added.
The SAPM said the government had decided to forward the issue of extra crushing to the Anti-Corruption Department. Less payment to the sugarcane farmers by the sugar mill owners would also be investigated, he added.
He said the matter of corporate fraud was being sent to the FIA and the Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan with the directives to complete the probe within 90 days.
It had also been recommended that the stocks of all the sugar mills would be linked with the FBR, he added.
He said as per the commission’s report, the decision to allow export of sugar was taken keeping in view availability of the stock. Still sufficient stock was left in the stock to fulfill the country’s needs after export of some quantity, he added.
Shehzad Akbar said a committee had been constituted under the supervision of Minister for Industry Hammad Azhar to frame a sugar policy and take measures to reduce the price of sugar for the common people.
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan was committed to expose the mafia involved in the sugar crisis. He had decided to go after all the mafias. “Nobody is untouchable in the government of Imran Khan,” he added.
Shehzad Akbar said the prime minister before coming into power had promised to the nation to hold the accountability of all the people involved in corrupt practices. “Holding of an across the board accountability was part of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s election manifesto,” he added.
The special assistant asked former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to go through the commission’s report and answer how he had given Rs 20 billion subsidy on the directives of Sulman Shehbaz.
To a question he said a mafia was involved in the current shortage of petrol and the prime minister had taken the notice of it. The government was taking measures to improve the supply of petrol across the country.
Responding to another question regarding the All Party Conference called by the Pakistan Peoples Party, he said, “It is not an APC rather it is an all sugar daddies conference.” The APC’s only objective would be to devise a strategy how to defend themselves in the court, he added.