The government had decided to send the Rs. 29 billion sugar subsidy matter to National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for criminal investigation.
This was revealed by the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Accountability Shehzad Akbar in a press conference.
Addressing a news conference along with Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz, the SAPM said that the prime minister had approved his recommendation under which a reference covering the last five year’s subsidies and previous subsidies of 20-25 years will be sent to the NAB.
He said that the government wants 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 can be brought to justice no matter how powerful or influential they are.
Shehzad Akbar said that manipulation in the sugar industry increased when the political families started taking interest in the business.
He added that the prime minister is 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 the Sugar Inquiry Commission’s report, besides overhauling of the regulatory framework and rationalizing the sugar prices on the basis of the actual cost of production.
The SAPM added that the matters relating to Benami accounts and transactions, tax evasion, and similar issues will be sent to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) for investigation.
He said that the commission, in its report, had revealed fraud in the sales tax and reduced 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 confirmed that the Board had also been asked to conduct an audit of all the sugar mills, expressing confidence that a significant amount on account of tax evasion and sales tax, etc. will be recovered from them.
Hamza Sugar Mills 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.
He said that the matter of cartelization in the sugar industry is being referred to the Competitive Commission of Pakistan (CCP) for action, which will present its report in 90 days. Major changes have been made in the CCP to make it a more effective body.
The SAPM said that the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) will look into the sugar mills’ loans and fake exports and will 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 will also investigate the money-laundering committed in the name of sugar within 90 days.
The FIA will also probe the export of sugar to Afghanistan, he added.
Shehzad Akbar said that 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 that 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 will also be investigated, he added. He said the matter of corporate fraud is 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 will 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 the 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 that 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 that Prime Minister Imran Khan is committed to exposing 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.
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 that a mafia is involved in the current shortage of petrol and the prime minister has taken notice of it. The government is 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 will be to devise a strategy on how to defend themselves in the court, he added.