KARACHI: Highly experienced Belarusian businessmen, who are bringing vital tractor manufacturing technology and investment into Pakistan, are facing harassment and threats in the country.
They are directors of MTW Pak – a company that has been incorporated in Pakistan ahead of Belarus president’s visit. MTW Pak has technology rights from OJSC Minsk Tractor Works, which is owned by the government of Belarus.
MTW Pak will manufacture, assemble, market and sell tractors in a joint venture with a local business group.
It all started when Belarusian investors cancelled their joint venture with a local tractor dealer because of his failure to meet obligations under the agreement. Being angry, the dealer sent complaints to newspapers, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), making baseless allegations of corruption against the company officials.
Now, government officials have started issuing notices to the company without realising that it has yet to begin business activities in the country. The company has not even operated its bank account. As MTW Pak is backed by the Belarus government, the harassment of company officials is disturbing, which comes before the arrival of Belarus president in Islamabad where he is likely to sign many bilateral deals. He is also expected to take up the issue of harassment with officials of the Pakistan government.
The dealer, who is causing trouble, is neither a shareholder nor a director of MTW Pak. He is merely a dealer who formed a joint venture with LLC BelPakSnab, a Belarusian company and parent company of MTW Pak, for the import of tractors from Belarus for their assembly and distribution in Pakistan. However, the dealer failed to sell a single tractor, instead, he clashed with officials of LLC BelPakSnab. BelPakSnab was left with no choice but to terminate its joint venture with the dealer. Afterwards, BelPakSnab got MTW Pak incorporated in Pakistan and entered into contracts with the company for the export of tractors from Belarus to Pakistan.
Being unhappy, Shahzad, the dealer, started a smear campaign against officials of BelPakSnab, made threatening calls and spread rumours against directors of MTW Pak.
An allegation in the complaint sent by the dealer to the FIA, FBR and SECP was that MTW Pak was incorporated without the presence of one of its directors in Pakistan namely, Aliaksander Kruhlenia.
According to the complaint, the director never visited Pakistan to sign bank account opening forms of Summit Bank, relevant SECP forms for incorporation of MTW Pak as well as FBR documents and all signatures of Kruhlenia on the documents were forged.Both the FIA and FBR have started acting on the baseless complaint without questioning the link between this person and MTW Pak and without giving any chance to the company officials to counter the allegations.
The FBR has even suspended sales tax registration of MTW Pak just a couple of days before the visit of Belarus president.
The truth is that Kruhlenia had signed all the relevant documents in Belarus and there was no forgery.
In a bid to prove the allegations wrong, Kruhlenia came to Pakistan on May 25 to verify his signatures in front of officials of the SECP, FBR, Notary Public and the bank concerned.
Another unfounded allegation was that MTW Pak was incorporated without proper approval of the Board of Investment (BoI) and the Ministry of Interior. However, the company was registered with the SECP with two foreign directors and the commission does not allow appointment of foreign directors before seeking clearance from the interior ministry. The approval stage from the BoI will come when actual investments come in.
The dealer even filed a constitutional petition in the Sindh High Court. But the court did not give any relief to the dealer and told him to satisfy it about maintainability of the petition.
MTW Pak has signed three different memoranda of understanding, during the visit of an official delegation of Belarus which reached Islamabad a couple of days ago, with OJSC Minsk Tractor Works, Belshina Joint Stock Company and OJSC Holding Management Company Bobruiskagromash – all three owned by the Belarus government.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2015.