ISLAMABAD: The Punjab government has rubbished allegations of political victimisation of an advertising agency belonging to an influential businessman Inam Akbar, which has been found to be involved in embezzling hundreds of millions of rupees in state funds.
Registering a case against the chief executive of an advertising agency involved in multi-million rupee worth of embezzlement of public funds is neither political victimisation nor is it unilateral action, the Punjab government stated in a press release issued on Thursday regarding the case against Midas (Pvt) Ltd.
The agency has been accused by the Punjab government of embezzlement worth Rs632.59 million through fake invoices. The alleged scam was unearthed during an audit of the accounts of Punjab’s director general public relations (DGPR) in the tenure of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) regime.
An FIR has been lodged by the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) after holding a proper enquiry on the matter of bogus payment of Punjab Development Fund advertisements, the press release said, responding to allegations levelled by the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), of singling out Midas and its chief executive, Inam Akbar, in the case.
The case has been registered against the officers of DGPR and Mr Akbar, the statement said, adding that “therefore, it is not justified to say that it is unilateral action against [Midas].”
The APNS, in a press release published in leading papers on August 3, had expressed concern over the registration of an FIR against Mr Akbar and termed it “unilateral action” against the advertising agency.
The Punjab government lashed out at APNS saying that a committee on the issue of Midas had been constituted by the provincial government, comprising key office bearers of the APNS, and met on August 5, 2009. “Therefore, the stance of the APNS that Punjab government failed to hold a single meeting of the committee is not based on facts,” the statement said.
The statement added that the provincial government, through a letter dated February 17, 2011, requested the APNS to persuade the management of Midas to pay back the embezzled amount, but to no avail.
In an attempt to counter allegation of political victimisation of Midas, the statement highlighted that the issue has not been taken up by the provincial government alone.
A writ petition was filed by prominent journalists Hamid Mir and Absar Alam Haider, in the Supreme Court, seeking orders for DG Anti Corruption to complete the enquiry process lying pending for the last three years, the statement said. Another petition has also been filed by the Transparency International Pakistan in the apex court on the same issue.
Mr Akbar may join the investigation and produce documentary evidence of his innocence before the investigation officer for his acquittal from the case, the statement said.
“Registration of a case does not mean that one cannot furnish proof of one’s innocence,” the statement added.
The statement also hit out at the APNS saying that of the proposed recovery of Rs632 million, as pointed out by the auditor general, an amount of Rs94.39 million is related to the print media.
The remaining amount “pertains to electronic media advertisement bills, which obviously does not come within the purview of APNS,” the statement said.
It added that it “expects full cooperation and support from the APNS in the interest of justice.”
Meanwhile, ACE summoned the accused in the case to appear in person before the team conducting the investigations on Monday.
Earlier, ACE had booked seven officials of DGPR and the chief executive of Midas in a criminal case. The officials were booked for making forged payments to Midas in an official campaign worth Rs200 million. They had initially been summoned on Friday but the three main accused – Akbar and two former DGPRs, Shoaib Bin Aziz and Farrakh Mehmood Shah – did not appear before the investigators.
The team issued another summon to all accused to appear before the investigators on Monday, a team member requesting anonymity said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2012.