Sugar mafia conspired to increase prices through artificial shortage, says PM’s aide
LAHORE – Prime Minister’s Adviser on Accountability and Interior Shahzad Akbar said Thursday that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) exposed the sugar mafia’s involvement in monetary fraud, speculative trade and money laundering after obtaining evidence of continued increase in sugar prices spurred through artificial shortage of the commodity.
He said the FIA unearthed solid evidence in the operations through data retrieved from digital devices belonging to the sugar mafia which showed how they controlled the prices.
Addressing a press conference at 90 Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam here on Thursday, Shahzad Akbar shared the details of gambling ‘Satta’ mafia and those involved in investing in sugar mafia. He said the sugar mafia never agreed to fix the sugar ex-mill price. However, when it comes to taking subsidy they come forward to set the ex-mill price.
He said that sugar production process got completed within four months so its input cost should remain static but the ‘Satta’ mafia fluctuated the prices in various months by forward sales and credit line. He regretted that the sugar mafia had made the people hostage so it was mandatory to take action against them. Shahzad Akbar said that a small sugar gambler ‘Sattabaz’ earned about Rs0.5 million to one million daily, and a big gambler earned Rs 30 million to 40 million daily. The sugar mafia earned about Rs 5.5 billion through gambling with an increase of single rupee in sugar price, he asserted.
Regarding the action of FIA, the Adviser said that 16 Whatsapp groups of more than 40 members of sugar mafia were unearthed and exposed; their banking accounts were scruitnised; while their 464 personal bank accounts were traced through which transactions amounting to Rs 106 billion were made. An amount of Rs 320 million was freezed in those accounts, he asserted.
Shahzad Akbar said that 392 secret or ‘third party accounts’ of sugar mafia also surfaced, adding that it was revealed that the sugar mafia conspired to increase sugar prices from 90 rupees per kg to 120 rupees per kg through artificial shortage and ‘Satta’ gambling in the month of Ramazan after which the FIA launched action against such elements.
FIA registered cases and started investigation against members of sugar gambling mafia, besides arresting some of them, he added. The Adviser said that the government was taking comprehensive measures to control sugar prices while a law ‘Prevention of Speculation in Essential Commodities’ was introduced in Punjab under which the artificial shortage, unregulated storage, hoarding, forward sales etc of five essential commodities including sugar, ghee, wheat, rice and cooking edible oil could be checked by the authorities concerned.
An order ‘Punjab Sugar Supply Chain Management Bill 2021’ was issued and implemented on March 25 which enabled sugar commissioners to check and control sugar supply chain, he maintained.
He said that the purpose of administrative initiatives and legislation was to provide relief to people by controlling the prices of essential commodities, adding that the federal government had issued a directive to provincial governments after establishing parameters to set sugar’s ex-mill price.
He highlighted that the Punjab government, on basis of such parameters, was determining the ex-mill price after which it would be easy for the administration to manage the supply chain.
To a question, he said that federal government as well as provincial governments were empowered to determine ex-mill price but if any provincial government would not fix the ex-mill price then the federal government would itself set the ex-mill price.
To another query, Shahzad Akbar said that sugar price would remain under control as sufficient stocks of sugar were available to meet the requirement, adding the Economic Coordination Committee allowed to import 0.5 million metric ton sugar to cope with any uncertain situation or supply shortage.
To a question, he said that only court can allow PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz to go to London, adding that she had not given any application to remove her name from exit control list. “Sharif family would not get any NRO and they have to sort out their matter here”, he maintained.
He said that Maryam Nawaz’s inexperience severely damaged PDM due to which some PML-N leaders would have reservations on her leadership. Shahzad Akbar said that it was for the first time that the reports of sugar and petroleum commissions were made public, saying the step was in line with the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan to ensure accountability for all. The PTI government not only made the report public but it also took action as per law, he added. The Broadsheet report would be presented during federal cabinet’s meeting and the cabinet would decide whether to make it public or not, he concluded.