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LAHORE: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Accountability and Interior Mirza Shahzad Akbar claimed on Thursday that cyber forensic analysis of data confiscated by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Lahore of one of main alleged satta player has revealed that the satta mafia was planning to increase the price of sugar from Rs 8,800 to Rs 9,600 per 100 kilograms of a bag before the month of Ramzan.

Shahzad was addressing a press conference in connection with achievements of the FIA Lahore in sugar scam at the 90 Shahra-e-Quaid-e-Azam here on Thursday.

He said sugar is a commodity which is prepared locally and its input cost remains the same (most of the times). “Now the question is whether the sugar barons can manipulate the prices alone? No. They can’t do so without the help of satta agents,” he said, explaining how these agents come up in the market with credit lines (backed by sugar mills) of billions of rupee and allegedly issue future rates of the commodity through forward sales.

“This means we (the public) are hostage of 8-10 sugar mills of Punjab which issues rates of the commodity in connivance of the satta-agents,” Shahzad said, adding that the ex-mill sugar price was never fixed, and whenever the government tried to determine it, the sugar industry started making hue and cry.

While explaining why the FIA intensified its operations against the sugar mafia and alleged satta agents, the SAPM said they had received credible information that these elements were allegedly planning to significantly increase the sugar price before Ramzan and the data confiscated from them showed that they were lobbying to increase the price by 25 to 30 percent.

About the breakthrough achieved by the FIA during investigations, the premier’s aide said forensic data of about 16 WhatsApp groups being operated by over 40 alleged main satta agents or their leaders have been obtained and the agency has detected 464 personal bank accounts of these persons in which transactions of Rs 106 billion were traced out of which Rs 320 million were frozen.

During the forensic analysis of the data, the SAPM said the FIA also traced as many as 392 secret, benami or third-party bank accounts which he claimed were created by the satta agents mostly in the names of their lower level staffers.

He claimed that most of these accounts were not operated more than three months.

Praising the FIA for its ‘swift actions,’ Shahzad called upon the provinces to work or cooperate with the federal government for taking administrative and legislative measures against these mafias.

In this regard, the Punjab government a few weeks ago introduced the Prevention and Speculation in Essential Commodities Ordinance, 2021, under which speculative price hike and hoardings have been made cognizable crimes, he added.

Similarly, he added, the Punjab government for the first time in history has given powers to the Punjab Cane Commissioner under the Punjab Sugar Supply Chain Management Order to check the supply chain of sugar and take penal actions against speculative pricing players of this commodity.

“The entire exercise would go waste if we failed to determine the ex-mill price of sugar,” the PM’s aside said adding that the federal government for the first time in history has fixed parameters for the ex-mill price and sent the proposals to provinces so that they could determine the prices accordingly.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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