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July 14, 2021

Plot thickens as foreign firm retracts corruption allegations

July 14, 2021

File photo of Green Line Project in Karachi.
File photo of Green Line Project in Karachi.

ISLAMABAD: A Spanish firm first accused a Pakistani company of fake invoicing on its behalf to claim an extraordinary payment from Karachi’s Green Line Project (which intriguingly approved invoices unaccounted). It wrote to the Pakistani mission in Madrid, the National Accountability Bureau, the FIA and issued a press release repeating the same charges and demanding action against the accused.

But a few months later, the firm has taken a U-turn as if nothing happened. It retracted the allegations that deepen the mystery whether the hush-up is an outcome of coercion or collusion.

This is despite the fact that the accused company admitted fake invoicing, the FIA was investigating the allegations and the firm had expressed resolve to do everything to protect its reputation as allegations of kickbacks could hurt its business at the global level.

M/S Grupsa, a Spanish firm, is into the business of door systems and automatic equipment for mass passenger transport. It has supplied Platform Screen Doors (PSDs) for Multan and Islamabad metro stations. Trouble however occurred after it sold PSDs for the Green Line Project to a sub-contractor, M/s MGH, to which it had nominated the firm’s authorized dealer in Pakistan on the recommendation of someone influential.

While the purchase was made in Euro 511,957 in June 2018 for a project, much before the inauguration of the BRT Green Line which is yet to be made, the M/s MGH owned by Dr Mansoor Ahmed “prepared a false/forged/fabricated document/invoice of the M/s Grupsa and has claimed payment of Euro 2,732,232.7 as the total amount of manufacturer [M/s Grupsa] invoice” from the Karachi Infrastructure Development Company Limited (which is executing Green Line Project).

In a letter to the NAB, the M/s Grupsa shared original documents it issued and the forged documents allegedly used by the M/s MGH. The firm also shared email exchanges between the M/s Grupsa and the M/s MGH in which the accused firm at one point shifted the blame on its employee of fake invoicing and on another occasion alleged the M/s ZKB (the main contractor of Green Line Project) as probable beneficiary to balance off its other imports in the same period.

In addition, the original invoice of the M/s Grupsa amounting to slightly above Euro 0.5m and the forged invoice of Euro 2,732,232.7 was also shared which was issued on Spanish firm’s letterhead. “From the above discussion, it can easily be seen that the M/s MGH has taken additional benefit of [Euro] 2.4 M approx. by claiming payment of [Euro] 2,732,232.7,” reads the firm’s letter to the NAB. The letter has further named Chief Engineer of Karachi Infrastructure Development Company Limited Brig (R) Sohail Ibrar as a man worth investigating.

“It is requested to investigate the relationship of the M/s MGH and Sohail Ibrar….In the presence of substantial evidence, it is requested to suspend Sohail Ibrar till the investigation is concluded…The M/s MGH in its email dated 14 July is highly questionable mentioning that Sohail recently took charge in Karachi Green Line as chief engineer and he is helping a lot. Please ask Sohail Ibrar what kind of help he is giving to the M/s MGH in this project,” reads the M/s Grupsa complaint to the NAB.

As The News went through email trails, the one in which Dr Masnoor Ahmed of the M/s MGH mentioned support from Sohail Ibrar was also there. “Further, Brig Sohail Ibrar has taken charge in the Green Line as chief engineer and is helping us a lot for new orders,” reads that email. In yet another email to the M/s Grupsa, Mansoor wrote: “We have already signed an extension contract with the NLC for 4-5 stations and this is confidential but I will send you the copy,” Mansoor wrote. When The News sought comment from Brig (R) Sohail Ibrar with reference to his naming in the email that he was helping Mansoor “a lot for new orders”, he denied it outright. Sohail who served in NLC was also in denial about Mansoor’s claim that he (Mansoor) helped him in securing a contract from the NLC with regard to “4-5 stations and this is confidential”. Sohail said he joined the Sindh Infrastructure Development Company Limited (earlier KIDL) in 2020. As a background, Sohail was earlier project director of the NLC for the contract of 4-5 stations that the NLC received from Islamabad Metro Extension Project. The M/s Grupsa had supplied doors there too.

When Mansoor was confronted with above-mentioned emails, he said: “The emails contain mostly marketing [gimmicks] true and false.” He accused the M/s Grupsa of forging the invoice but when he was confronted through his emails in which he first blamed his office employee and then the M/s ZKB for forgery, he said: “It was just a story. At that time, we didn’t know who prepared (fake invoice) it actually.” He said the amount extra claimed through forged documents was approved by the Green Line Project management but his company hadn’t received it at the time the M/s Grupsa raised the red flag. This time he blamed the M/s Grupsa’s country representative in Pakistan. However, in yet another twist, as the Spanish firm retracted the allegations it earlier levelled against Mansoor and his company, The News received the retraction of the M/s Grupsa through Mansoor.

In the clarification issued on July 8 by the Spanish firm, General Manager, Juan Carlos Garcia, M/s Grupsa declared that it never said the invoices were forged and that its local distributor M/s MGH has drawn huge funds. This is in contrast to what the firm said in a press release issued on June 24 this year. Then it had declared: “We found Grupsa’s forged letterhead which was presented to the authorities concerned for a huge sum of euros under our name for which we never contracted with the MGH.” In addition, it announced that it has not renewed its contract with the M/s MGH and demanded that the government take action against the accused company.

As he shared the M/s Grupsa’s retraction, Mansoor blamed an unnamed competitor for this misunderstanding between his company and the Spanish partner. “This is self-explanatory. You may verify from the company please. This matter was propagated by a competitor,” he wrote to The News.