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LAHORE: A few days after registration of FIRs against some prominent sugar barons and satta-agents (speculative pricing players), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has issued notices to all the 40 satta-players directing them to appear before a combined investigation team before its Lahore bureau along with details of their declared and non-declared assets and bank accounts besides other details.

Last week, the FIA’s Anti-Corruption Circle (ACC) had registered an FIR against estranged PTI senior leader Jahangir Tareen’s JDW group and Gourmet Bakers & Sweets Pvt Ltd, Lahore, under sections 420, 468, 471 and 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), read with sections 3/4 of Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010.

Sources in the FIA told Business Recorder that the agency has also approached banks and money exchange dealers seeking details of transactions made by sugar mills and the satta-agents during the last one year or so.

An official privy to the information revealed that the FIA has summoned satta-agents Sheikh Amir Waheed of the Chaudhry Sugar Mills on 1st April, followed by Mustansar Gogi of Ramzan and Al-Arabia Sugar Mills on March 31st, Malik Abad of the JWD group on March 30 and Malik Majid of the JWD group on March 31st, Asad Bhaiya of RYK Sugar group on April 2 and Aslam Bhalli of the Sharif Shamim Kanjwani group on March 30 besides others.

The official said that all these suspects have been issued notices and the agency would not only register FIRs but will also made arrests if someone failed to appear before the combined investigation team on the prescribed dates. According to a call-up notice issued to Sheikh Amir, the FIA said it has assumed cognizance of large-scale sugar satta (on artificially escalated speculative prices) and money laundering.

“As per the information/evidence available with the combined investigation team, you are closely networked with the sugar satta mafia and poses relevant information/evidences,” read the notice which added that cases have been registered under relevant provisions against various sugar brokers, sugar satta-players and sugar mills.

The official said that all the suspects have been directed to bring lists/details of their personal, business and benami accounts, lists of declared and non-declared assets in the FBR, details of declarations made in amnesty schemes till date and inward and outward remittances in personal, family business or benami accounts.

Meanwhile, FIA Punjab (Zone-I) Director Dr Muhammad Rizwan wrote a letter to the FIA Sindh on Sunday asking the agency to take action against some 20 satta-players of Karachi and Sindh who were actively participating in satta through their respective sugar mills and in active connivance with satta players of Punjab.

According to the letter, a copy of which is available with Business Recorder, the FIA Punjab director said that “inquiry teams have discovered “irrefutable evidences” of clandestine satta through 16 secret WhatsApp groups whereby sugar prices were being dishonestly and fraudulently ramped-up”.

“The satta mafia, in active connivance with each other, operating directly and through their front-persons fraudulently escalated the ex-mill prices of sugar (essential commodity especially for the poor) from Rs69.50/KG (March 2020) to Rs90/KG (March 2021) and defrauded the masses of at least Rs110 billion during this period,” the letter regrets.

It added that the satta mafia managed this dishonest and fraudulent escalation amidst a hoax of impending sugar shortages, when sufficient sugar-stocks were lying in sugar mills and godowns. The director said it has also been discovered that they were laundering the crime proceeds of sugar-satta through various fake/benami accounts.

“Examination of the Sugar Satta WhatsApp Groups, seized by FIA Lahore u/s 14 AMLA 2010, reveal that over 20 satta players of Karachi/Sindh were actively participating in satta with the respective sugar mills and in active connivance with satta players of Punjab,” the letter further reads.

Informing the FIA director Sindh of the situation, FIA Punjab Director Dr Rizwan has also shared details of the three main WhatsApp accounts of the 20 satta-players. From the first WhatsApp group namely “Sugar Traders Group (STX), the FIA Punjab extracted and shared data containing 7,500 printed pages with the FIA Sindh. The FIA Punjab has also extracted and shared data of the “Sugar Merchants” and the “Pakistan Sugar Group” consisting 5,000 printed pages as evidence for further legal actions.

It may be noted that the FIA Lahore has been conducting an investigation into the multi-billion sugar scam since last year. The sugar mafia has made Rs110 billion in one year in speculative pricing and to hide this income a number of secret and fake bank accounts were opened,” an official had told Business Recorder.

He revealed that the agency had taken 32 mobile phones and laptops in possession from some sugar pricing players and collected relevant evidence against the major groups. There were reports that the sugar mafia wanted to further increase sugar price during Ramazan, he said, adding that cyber forensic analysis of evidences were underway.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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