LAHORE - FIA has issued summons to PIA’s former chief executive officer Bernd Hildenbrand in a corruption case involving billions of rupees.

Hildenbrand, a German national, is facing an inquiry initiated by the Federal Investigation Agency on special instruction of former interior minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan.

Bernd Hildenbrand was hired during tenure of Chairman Nasir Jaffer. His name was placed on Exit Control List (ECL) for his alleged involvement in lease of A330 aircrafts and much-trumpeted start of Premium Service. Similar excessive payments were made on lease of A320 aircrafts in PIA’s use.

Then, in a surprise move, the ex-CEO was given one-time permission to fly home for thirty days after which he was supposed to come back to Pakistan on June 10, 2017. But he did not return to face corruption charges.

FIA sources revealed to The Nation that an A310, which was airworthy and flew to Germany, was sold to a German company for €45,000, although the same aircraft was hired by a company in Malta for 10 days at a cost of €210,000 and its book value was estimated to be $3.1 million.

PIA Board of Directors, headed by the former chairman and the Aviation secretary, had given approval to the leasing agreement negotiated by a committee comprising Mr Hildenbrand, and directors of Corporate Planning, Engineering, Flight Operations, and CFO for leasing of A330 from Sri Lankan Airlines at over $8,000 per hour although similar aircraft have been procured on lease by other private Pakistani registered airlines for approximately $4000/hour.

It is to be noted that every Pakistan airline registered under regulatory control of CAA Pakistan has to submit complete record of leasing contracts to the regulator for grant of permission to operate it for scheduled commercial airline operations. Both PIA and CAA’s Board of Directors were headed by the Aviation secretary and there were many other board members who were part of the governing bodies of both these state owned institutions.

Sardar Mehtab Abbasi, the Aviation adviser to former PM Nawaz Sharif, had given go-ahead to FIA to investigate in these massive corruption scams that have eroded PIA for ages. He had also issued instructions to give exemplary punishments to those employees involved in financial and administrative indiscipline in the national flag-carrier.

However, investigations into this probe seem to have been landed in cold storage as have numerous other investigations ordered in massive corruption in loss-making white elephants like PIA, PSM, CAA, etc.

An FIA official said investigations have been halted only for the reason that the prime accused is not present in the country. Now once again, under section 160 CrPC in inquiry number 84/2016 FIA Corporate Crime Circle (CCC) Lahore, FIA Assistant Director Amman Ullah Khan has issued summons in the name of Bernd Hildenbrand over misappropriation, embezzlement, kickbacks and corruption of billions of rupees in PIA.

The summons further read, “You are required to attend the FIA office on August 28, this month at 10:00 am. You will be questioned about the lease of A-330 aircraft from Sri Lankan airline and the sale of A-310 aircraft to German Company. You are also directed to bring the record of your personal banks accounts and bank statements from January 01, 2016 to date”.

When contacted, PIA spokesman Mashhud Tajwar said that Hildenbrand’s services have been terminated from airline and he is no more part of PIA. The airline is cooperating with FIA regarding the inquiry and this cooperation will be continued in future as well, he added.