| GEO Business|
| FIA, PSM meet for safe passage to scam’s accused|
| Updated at: 0917 PST, Friday, August 06, 2010|
ISLAMABAD: A grand strategy has been devised to give safe passage to the highly influential businessman, and a close friend of the president, involved in the multi-billion rupee Pakistan Steel Mill scam, by withdrawing all FIA registered cases against the small PSM traders and the Abbas Group companies.
According to informed sources, FIA had deliberately roped in small and medium sized dealers who had nothing to do with the scam but were still targeted both to mislead the supreme court into believing that the ordered action was being taken while actually the plan appeared to be to get relief for Abbas group companies, allegedly owned by Riaz Lalji, by clubbing their case with the other dealers.
At a meeting on Thursday between different steel industrialists, FIA and Pakistan Steel Mill (PSM) it was decided in principle to tell the Supreme Court at next hearing that PSM has no claim whatsoever against ‘any’ trader and thus wrongly registered cases will be taken back, The News has reliably learnt.
PSM’s acting Chief Executive Officer and its Principal Executive Officer Finance Imtiaz AK Lodhi while talking to The News confirmed that in today’s meeting with FIA chief Zafarullah, he had conveyed to him that PSM has no claims of recovery whatsoever against any dealer and thus FIA should take the wrongly registered cases back.
“We have agreed to convey this to the apex court in next hearing of the case,” Lodhi said adding: “We have offered the FIA to work together to resolve some misunderstandings as to what is meant by the term ‘business loss’ to PSM which the FIA calls a fraud or corruption.”
On the other hand when DG-FIA Zafarullah Khan was approached he said that he was still in meeting with people with regard to Pakistan Steel Mill issue. When asked to confirm the PSM CEO’s statement that both PSM and FIA are going to submit in the Supreme Court a joint statement that there are no claims of recovery against any dealer and so wrongly registered cases will be taken back, he said he couldn’t reply as this correspondent has misquoted him in a previous story.
When asked at what point he was misquoted he said that in Geo TV’s programme ‘Kehnay May Kya Harj Hai’, this scribe had alleged that he (DG) was loudly laughing while giving interview on PSM corruption case. When it was pointed out that he had been laughing, the DG replied that he will simply not speak on today’s developments.
Top steel industrialists in their interactions with The News have alleged that registration of so many cases against almost each and every steel trader and consumer was basically meant to create a situation of large-scale hue and cry and then finally announce that because of this situation, all the cases are being taken back.
The News has reported these interviews alleging Riaz Lalji as the mastermind of this strategy by FIA which, instead of acting upon Supreme Court’s instructions to investigate the real beneficiaries of more than Rs22 billion loss to the PSM, had registered FIR against 40 different steel traders and announced registration of similar FIRs against rest of the traders of the industry.
Following these FIRs, arrest of industrialists and a campaign to harass them was also launched by FIA’s Karachi office and head office at Islamabad.
As the result of the whole well-written scripted drama executed by FIA, hue and cry was started and harassed industrialists started threatening the government to come on roads. Many steel traders were scheduled to meet DG FIA on Friday at the interior ministers’ camp office in Karachi but one day before the highly important decision was taken to step-wise withdraw FIRs apparently to give a complete safe passage to the alleged owner of the Abbas Steel Group, Mr. Riaz Lalji.
When PSM’s acting CEO Lodhi was asked that if the whole fiasco of selling of billets, steel billets and other steel products to some selected traders was simply a business loss then would he say that decision of sacking of Moeen Aftab by the Prime Minister was wrong? To this he replied, “No, there ‘could be’ some elements of corruption or mismanagement. When the prices of the products were too low the then management should have gone to suppliers and got the rates adjusted”. He gave an impression as if billions of rupees loss was merely administrative mistake of the then management.
When asked whether it was simply a coincident that the whole consignments of tens of thousands of tons of billets, steel billets and other steels products were given to Abbas Steel and all other traders were ignored, he at this point admitted, “Yes, there could some mal-practice, but you know it has to be proved. FIA will have to prove it.”
After saying this Lodhi again make a very confusing statement, adding, “But at the same time you know it is our policy statement that all what happened was basically a business loss and we don’t have any claims whatsoever against any trader.”
When Lodhi was asked that whether he was sure that Riaz Lalji was not the owner of these four companies of Abbas Steel Group, which are beneficiaries of this whole scam, Lodhi said that he couldn’t say anything in this regard.