The Punjab government has initiated actions against 13 prominent dealers suspected of being involved in a sugar scam. Their names have been forwarded to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which has subsequently registered cases and initiated legal proceedings against them.
These dealers are accused of colluding with representatives of sugar mills to manipulate prices and unlawfully accumulate substantial profits through forming a cartel. They are alleged to have inflated sugar prices from Rs90 to Rs180 per kilogram.
The apprehension of these dealers is expected to provide authorities with valuable leads to uncover the potential involvement of sugar mill owners in the scam. Furthermore, the interrogation of these dealers is anticipated to yield crucial information regarding sugar smuggling.
Despite concentrated efforts by authorities, the FIA and other agencies have encountered difficulties in locating and apprehending these dealers, even after several days of pursuit.
The names of Noman Qureshi and Sajid were provided to the FIA by sources in Khushab. Other identified dealers include Farooq Khan from Sargodha, Malik Azim from Kasur, Talha Kapoor and Jamal Mustafa from Karachi, Owais Bilal from Chishtian, Imran from Faisalabad, and Waqas from Mirpur. The list also includes dealer Ashraf from Lahore and Arshad from Multan. However, at present, all these dealers remain missing from their residences and workplaces.
In a related development, the Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing for appeals against sugar mills, which have been pending for eight years. A three-member bench, led by Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, will commence proceedings on September 13. These appeals were initially filed in 2015.
It is important to note that the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has been closely monitoring the ongoing sugar crisis. If any indications of anti-competitive activities are detected, the CCP has committed to taking appropriate enforcement and policy measures.
In 2021, the CCP conducted raids at the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) and imposed penalties amounting to Rs44 billion on the PSMA and its member sugar mills for their alleged involvement in forming cartels. However, this decision faced legal challenges in the high courts of Sindh and Punjab, as well as the Competition Appellate Tribunal (CAT), resulting in the suspension of penalty enforcement.