LAHORE -  The highly-paid chief executive officer of the Pakistan International Airlines is likely to appear before the Federal Investigation Agency in connection with mega corruption probe, well-placed sources in the agency said on Monday.

“We have got approval from FIA Director General to summon the senior officers including CEO in a corruption case,” said a senior FIA officer on condition of anonymity.

It merits mentioning here that authorities last week put the name of Bernd Hildenbrand on the Exit Control List (ECL), barring the German national from leaving the country. The federal investigators are probing into a case wherein PIA top officials leased an aircraft from Sri Lankan airline on almost double rates than a private airline of the country. PIA leased an aircraft A-330 from Sri Lankan airline at US$, 8500 per hour whereas the same type of aircraft was got on lease by a private airline on US$, 4500 per hour.

Last week FIA Punjab had sought permission from its headquarters to interrogate some senior PIA officers allegedly involved in corruption. In response to that, the DG FIA granted permission.

The FIA is probing the wet lease of an aircraft A-330 on exorbitant rates. The abovesaid inquiry was started on special directions of Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan. Three senior officers including Director Flight Operations, Director Engineering and Chief Financial Officers would also be among those being summoned by FIA for questioning.

Sources in FIA further revealed that FIA team demanded correspondence of these officers made with the Sri Lankan authorities regarding lease issue through emails. But they have deleted their email record from server and no text was available to read though contact record was there. A three-member team of FIA investigators also visited Karachi to probe alleged corruption in PIA leased aircraft but as per FIA investigators, PIA officers did not cooperate with them and provided only partial record in question.

On the other hand, PIA spokesman Danyal Gillani said that airline management was fully cooperating with FIA investigation team regarding provision of record. However to a question about the role of CEO in the case, he refused to comment.

A-330 aircraft from Sri Lankan Airlines leased at high rate is shocking, said an FIA investigator, and added, Sri Lankan Airlines wanted to downsize its fleet because the accumulated losses had reached $993 million, while PIA losses have risen to over Rs 300 billion by the 3rd quarter of 2016 as per briefing given to the Senate Committee with over Rs 5 billion losses every month. It has become a controversial practice in PIA that they lease aircraft of the same type at 60 to 100 per cent higher rates than that leased by other private airlines of Pakistan.

If PIA had ascertained reasons why Sri Lankan Airlines was desperate to lease A330 aircraft to a customer, they would have found out that huge losses forced them to do so.