Panama JIT’s allegation regarding record tampering by SECP proved: report

12:52 PM | 30 Jun, 2017
Panama JIT’s allegation regarding record tampering by SECP proved: report
ISLAMABAD - In what could be a major blow to the already embattled Sharif family, the allegations regarding Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan tampering with the record have been proved correct.

According to a report by The News, contrary to the claims of SECP that the probe against Sharifs’ sugar mills was dropped in 2013, the entry of the closure of the Chaudhry Sugar Mill was backdated in June 2016.

The report citing sources suggests that the bigwigs of SECP are now attempting to deflect the blame of doing this illegality on others including its chief who may also file his statement before the Supreme Court.

Moreover, some senior officials of the SECP are considering filing their statements before the apex court as well.

These sources said that the incumbent SECP chairman insists that he is not involved in all this but those officials who signed the backdated document allege that they did it following the chairman’s pressure.

Officials privy to the probe maintain that the money laundering probe initiated against Chaudhry Sugar Mills in 2011 following the then PPP government’s pressure was closed in 2013 but it was not reflected in both the files of the case maintained by the SECP.

According to a senior SECP official, there were two files maintained at Corporate Supervision Department of SECP (CSD) with regard to Chaudhry Sugar Mills Limited. One of these files was regarding the anti-money laundering investigation in the shape of a letter written to UK CA and the other file was the routine examination file.

It is said that the relevant note portion in the anti-money laundering investigation file shows that the case was closed in May 2013. However, the same note was not written on the routine examination file.

The source added that the evidence available on record contains letters for closure to UK CA in 2013, relevant note portion of anti-money laundering investigation file and non-inclusion of export sales regarding observation in the Section 263 order, which demonstrate that the matter was already closed.

However, in June 2016, according to sources, former head of CSD Ali Azeem Ikram claimed to have been called in the incumbent chairman’s office where Tahir Mehmood, Commissioner (CLD), Abid Hussain and Ms Maheen Fatima, Director CSD were already sitting there and files of Chaudhry Sugar Mills were lying open on chairman’s table.

The chairman, it is alleged, directed the officers to immediately put a backdated note in the file to confirm closing of inquiry on the relevant date.

Following chairman’s alleged pressure, Ms Maheen Fatima was said to have prepared the note with her signature.

The note was signed by Ali Azeem Ikram while Abid Hussain reported the compliance of the same to Tahir Mahmood, Commissioner CSD for onward confirmation to the chairman that his directions had been complied with.

However, Azeem Akram clarified that he signed the note under duress and not voluntarily, claiming that it was done under pressure and urgency.

On the other hand, officers concerned claimed that they did not believe that they were doing something illegal.

“I genuinely believed that as the matter already stood closed, all I was being directed to do was just to address a minor omission in our internal record which would have no impact on the matter itself or to the outside world,” a source quoted Azeem Ikram as claiming.

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According to sources, another officer Abid Hussain, who was CSD head in 2016, in his statement, that will be submitted before the apex court shortly, claimed that in mid-June 2016, Tahir Mehmood, Commissioner (CSD) called him and asked to advise Ms Maheen Fatima, (being dealing officer of the case) to prepare a case brief of Chaudhry Sugar Mills for the chairman as he was concerned about it following news reports and wanted to be briefed about the case.

Tahir Mehmood asked Ms Maheen Fatima to prepare a case brief, which was put up to the commissioner who advised to give the draft to the chairman.

Ms Maheen, it is said, had informed the chairman that the case was closed in the year 2013 after receipt of information from the Chaudhry Sugar Mills (the company) and even the letter for seeking information from UK authorities was withdrawn after examining the information received from the company.

The chairman then called Ali Azeem Ikram, Executive Director (Insurance) who was Head of Department (CSD) in the year 2013 who was also of the view that this matter was closed in the year 2013. However, the chairman pointed out that if the case was closed in the year 2013, this fact was not recorded on the note sheet although it should have been.

Abid Hussain also alleged that the chairman directed them to immediately put a backdated note in the file confirming closing of inquiry on the relevant date. He told Ms Maheen and Ali Azeem to incorporate the closure note on the note sheet to complete the record.

The sources said that in 2011, inquiry against Sharif's Chaudhry Sugar Mills was started on the pressure of the then PPP government.

The sources said when the JIT summoned one of the four people (named above in the story), the officer admitted that they had inserted nothing in back date. The JIT termed it a case of official record “tampering” following which the FIA was asked to probe the matter.

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The SECP chairman before the Supreme Court had categorically denied the allegation and insisted that the investigation against Chaudhry Sugar Mills was in fact closed in 2013. The SECP reply, which was submitted through the Attorney General, the Commission added, “Correspondence with UK CA for mutual legal assistance clearly showed that the said investigation was closed in 2013 well before the appointment of the incumbent chairman.

It bears mentioning that the whole incident took place last year when the Joint Investigation Team was not even formulated and so to misled the team is out of question, but the Panama Leaks had surfaced at that time.