Revival of probe into MCB’s ‘shady’ privatisation irks Mansha
Prominent industrialist and entrepreneur Mian Muhammad Mansha has warned that revival of probe into Muslim Commercial Bank Ltd’s (MCB) privatisation after almost a quarter of a century risks choking investors’ interest in the government’s asset-sale program.
“Who’s going to come to the privatisation when you tell them after 25 years,” the MCB’s CEO told the US-based media company Bloomberg in a telephone interview. In order to meet the conditions set in the International Monetary Fund loan programme and to help contain its budget deficit, the government is aiming to raise about $2 billion from asset sales in the current fiscal year ending on June 30, 2016.
The MCB is Pakistan’s second-largest bank by market value. “There are a lot of countries, and nobody is going to come here,” claimed Mansha, who is also the chairman and CEO of Nishat Group.
The disposal of the Faisalabad Electric Supply Company is one of the centrepieces of government’s privatisation programme. However, legal and political hurdles have slowed efforts to sell entities including the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and several electricity distribution companies.
Although the billionaire has showed his group’s interest in the purchase of electricity distribution companies in Faisalabad, the city he was born in, and Lahore but said if the MCB investigation still “is on our heads, then we will definitely not look”.
Mansha claimed to have met with the investigators from the country’s top accountability body, National Accountability Bureau (NAB), regarding the privatisation of the MCB in 1991.
“I had tea and met with lots of people there who are my friends,” the richest man in the country said, adding, “They were very happy they met me. Some took pictures. Some shook my hand.”
Further, the billionaire advised the investigators that the MCB probe is a sub judice matter and should not be progressed until any further court orders are received, claiming the Privatisation Act does not allow investigations of transactions that are more than two years old.
In July, the NAB had revived the investigation into the MCB’s privatisation after Supreme Court of Pakistan said it needed to expedite inquiries into 50 long-pending cases of alleged corruption.
Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court last month granted exemption to Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB) Chairman Mian Mansha and a Director Khwaja Javed Iqbal from personally appearing before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for inquiry related to the privatization of the bank.
A lawyer on behalf of Mian Mansha and DKhwaja Javed Iqbal appeared before the court and submitted that his clients were appearing before the NAB in the inquiry matter of the said bank. He said the investigators had been humiliating his clients during the investigation.
The petitioners had submitted that the NAB had been issuing notices to the bank’s chairman and the director to appear before it for investigation. It said the notices issued by the bureau were in violation of section 28 and 42 of the Privatization Commission Ordinance, 2000.
The petitioners also submitted that as per the law any investigation agency could only probe into irregularity, if any, within the period of one year from the privatization of a bank/company. However, the NAB initiated inquiry in the instant case after the lapse of several years to the privatization of the MCB, the petition said. He requested the court to expect the accused from personal appearance before the NAB officials.
After hearing the arguments, Justice Shams Mahmood Mirza allowed the request and exempted the petitioners from personally appearing before the NAB.
The court, however, ordered that they would cooperate with the interrogators, when asked, through their counsel. The judge adjourned further hearing till Nov 12.