News Analysis |
The Senate Standing Committee on Finance has questioned the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) on whether it has been concealing information regarding alleged corruption and money laundering in the Multan Metro Bus case.
Senator Saleem Mandviwala, chairman of the committee, wrote a letter to the SECP on Friday, reprimanding them for delaying their response to the questions raised by the Senate body. SECP has also been accused of deliberately concealing relevant details which the committee had asked for.
“Irrelevant papers have been enclosed but not those asked for by the committee,” stated the letter, referring to a 200-page reply which the SECP had submitted to the committee.
Mr. Hijazi, however, had abstained from informing the National Accountability Bureau, the Federal Investigation Agency, the finance ministry or the Punjab government regarding the case.
It has been reported that many senators in of the Standing committee were of the opinion that most of the details in the 200-page reply sought to divert attention away from the issue in question — why the SECP had not taken action in this regard for the last nine months.
The alleged Multan Metro Bus corruption case was referred to the SECP by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) in December 2016, however, the commission has remained tight-lipped over the matter since then. Now suspended SECP chairman Zafar Hijazi had not even taken the Ministry of Finance into confidence over the matter.
The matter came to the fore during investigations against Chinese company Jiangsu Yabaite Technology Co. Ltd (Yabaite), which is listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, China. The CSRC had picked up on undue foreign inflows into the company’s accounts.
Yabaite had informed the Chinese regulator that it had received the amount after completing some work on the Metro Bus project in Multan which had led the CSRC to approach the SECP in December 2016 seeking assistance in obtaining information and certain documents.
Mr. Hijazi, however, had abstained from informing the National Accountability Bureau, the Federal Investigation Agency, the finance ministry or the Punjab government regarding the case. In fact, the papers had not even been shared with SECP commissioners for almost seven months.
Then supposedly after pressure from the Punjab government, the SECP forwarded the case to FIA on Aug 30, 2017.
The Punjab government appears to have taken the matter seriously on the grounds that media reports regarding the case had damaged Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s reputation.
Previously, the case had become controversial after a segment of the news media questioned Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif’s involvement in the scandal. Secretary Supreme Court Bar Association Aftab Bajwa alleged that Shahbaz had received kickbacks from the project to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.
The Senate committee has asked the SECP to provide the complete set of documents and correspondence exchanged with the CSRC, including emails.
The media speculation provoked a fiery reaction from the flamboyant Punjab CM who lashed out against ARY News channel and also named three popular TV personalities on the network during a press conference where he dismissed allegations against him and called the TV pundits liars.
A member of the Senate standing committee said that had the SECP referred the case to the relevant agencies in a timely manner, the accused would have been arrested. At present, the FIA and Punjab police are looking into the matter and investigating the involvement of contractors.
The letter written by the Senate standing committee probed the SECP for the names of officers who had dealt with and kept custody of the documents received from the CSRC and whether they had ever conducted investigations into white-collar crimes.
The Senate committee also enquired regarding the reasons why only three people (a lawyer, the head of international affairs, and now suspended SECP chairman Mr. Hijazi) had access to those documents when neither of them had any prior experience in investigating such crimes.
Dawn has quoted Senator Mohsin Aziz of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf as saying, “We should remember that when there is smoke, there is fire — why was the SECP trying so hard to hide the facts during this time — we need to probe the matter and we will also be in touch with the Punjab government as it concerns their reputation too.”
The Senate committee is now demanding that the SECP provide the complete set of documents and correspondence exchanged with the CSRC, including emails.
The other query raised by the body is: “Is it a coincidence that matter was referred to FIA only after the suspension of Mr. Zafar Hijazi?”
The Senate body said that copies of all working papers annexure, minutes of relevant commission meetings and complete information/replies in all aspects should be provided to the committee within seven working days as the SECP has already considerably delayed the matter.
The deadline of seven working days ends on Nov 6.