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NAB orders probe in Multan Metro Bus Project, PIA plane sale

NAB orders probe in Multan Metro Bus Project, PIA plane sale

ISLAMABAD: At his first executive board meeting on Thursday after assuming charge of the office of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman, retired Justice Javed Iqbal ordered inquiries into alleged corruption in the Multan Metro Bus Project (MMBP), the New Islamabad Airport, the sale of PIA aircraft and money laundering activities at the Habib Bank’s New York branch, besides taking several other important decisions.

The meeting gave approval to eight inquiries and two investigations into various corruption cases.

Multan bus project

Recently, a Senate panel decided to expand the scope of its investigation into alleged corruption of $17.5 million in the Multan Metro Bus Project (MMBP) and the transfer of money abroad, as fresh details revealed a link between a top official of China-based Yabaite Techn­o­logy Company Limited and the Yabaite Pakistan Const­ru­ction Group Private Limited.

The Yabaite-Pakistan is among three companies working on the Rs17.6bn ($167m) MMBP. The China-based Yabaite Technology is also facing a probe by the China Securities Regula­tory Commission (CSRC) over alleged violation of Chinese securities laws.

The NAB has already approached the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to ask for complete records of the MMBP after initiating a probe. On a complaint of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), the FIA had in September started probing allegations of money laundering and corruption within the project, and in October the NAB chief ordered the Bureau to initiate a probe.

The FIA sent the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the SECP several letters requesting records of the project’s executing firm Yabaite and details of 16 international companies involved in money exchange over the past few years.

The FIA investigators have recorded the statements of Sheikh Ijaz Asghar and Salman Iqbal of Yabaite Pakistan. The police had arrested the suspects after registering a first information report against them for fraud in connection with the MMBP.

In October, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) directed the NAB to probe allegations of financial misconduct surrounding the construction of a baggage terminal at Islamabad’s new airport. The cost of the terminal was quoted at Rs3.9bn in the Project Concept-I, even though the actual cost was about Rs6.5bn.

Audit officials told the committee that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had issued a tender for the project without obtaining a licence from the Engineering Council. The CAA had applied for a licence after issuing the tender, resulting in a three-year delay in the project, the auditors said. It was evident from audit reports that Rs1.5bn had been embezzled in the project.

The committee also took notice of the construction of 15 bridges for passengers at the new Islamabad International Airport. Audit officials told the PAC that irregularities worth Rs5.99bn had been found in the contracts for the construction of those bridges.

Sale of PIA aircraft

The NAB chairman also ordered inquiry into the sale of a PIA aircraft.

A flight-worthy airplane was sold to a museum in Leipzig, Germany, even though permission to do so had not been sought. No agreements had been signed, nor did the PIA receive an advance payment for the sale of an A-310.

The participants of the meeting were told that the national flag carrier had been sent to Germany without due process, and carried former acting chief executive officer (CEO) of the airline, Bernd Hildenbrand, home while he was leaving Pakistan.

The meeting ordered inquiry into corruption worth billions committed by 56 public limited companies in the Punjab province.

The Department of Financial Services (DFS) has fined Habib Bank and its New York branch $225m for its failure to comply with New York’s laws and regulations designed to combat illicit financial transactions.

In addition, Habib Bank has agreed to surrender its licence to operate its New York branch upon fulfilment of conditions outlined in a separate surrender order to ensure an orderly winding up of the branch.

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2017

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