Pakistan's top investigation agency on Friday arrested six people for their alleged involvement in a scandal involving fraudulently obtained pilots' licences that came to light after a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) jet crashed last year, officials said.
"Five Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) officials and a pilot have been arrested," the Federal Investigation Agency said in a statement, adding that at least 40 pilots and eight officials from the CAA's licence branch have been named in three cases registered by the agency's corporate crime wing.
The arrested officials include Additional Director Licensing Mehmood Hussain, Senior Superintendent Human Resource Abdul Raees, Senior Joint Director Faisal Manzoor, Senior Joint Director Asiful Haq and pilot Saqlain Ali.
An inquiry into the crash in Karachi in which 97 people were killed pointed to the pilots not following procedures, while Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said the voice recorder suggested the pilots were distracted by a conversation about the Covid-19 outbreak.
Following the crash, Pakistan opened criminal investigations into 50 pilots and at least five CAA officials who allegedly helped them falsify credentials to secure licences.
"We have found a money trail in the investigation … each pilot paid a minimum of $312.50 for each paper they were supposed to appear in," Deputy Director FIA Corporate Crime Cell Abdul Rauf Shaikh said.
The scandal has resulted in barring the PIA from flying to Europe and the United States after dozens of its pilots were named in an initial list of 262 with "dubious" licences. (With input from reuters)
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