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FIA starts probe into PIA aircraft sale to German firm
Saturday 01, April 2017

Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has launched a probe into the alleged sale of a PIA aircraft to a German company for peanuts and without approval of the PIA Board, The News has learnt. 

FIA officials, seeking anonymity, told this correspondent that the agency has started a probe into alleged sale of a PIA plane A-310 for 47,500 euros (Rs 53 million) to a German company Mitteldeutsche Flughafen AG in 2016. 

Matters relating to acquiring planes on Wet Lease for the PIA are already under probe with the agency. PIA’s Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bernd Hildenbrand has also been put on the Exit Control List (ECL) by the interior ministry till completion of investigations. We have sought documents from PIA management regarding the plane's sale issue, the officials added. 

Documents, available with The News, revealed that to sell the plane A-310 tender was issued in August 2016 and then in November 2016. But the plane was sold out in October, prior to the issuance of the second tender which was having December 12, 2016, as the last date for submission of bids. 

To sell the plane, Director Procurement & Logistics (Director P&L) Air Commodore Imran Akhtar Khan wrote a letter DPL/A-310/16 dated October 28, 2016 and sought approval from the acting CEO. 

The letter highlighted that the PIA management had issued tenders in leading English and Urdu newspapers but no buyers submitted their application. “In the meanwhile, M/S Mitteldeutsche Flughafen AG contacted the PIA to buy one A-310 aircraft (without engines) with the intention to park it at Leipzig/Halle Airport. Initially, they offered 34,750 euros but subsequently they increased the offer to 47,500 euros,” the letter reads. 

Imran also wrote in the letter that since the aircraft will be with PIA livery thereof it will be an opportunity for PIA to brand visibility in Leipzig which will be a future transit point for PIA New York flights. The acting CEO approved the request on October 29, the next day after receiving the request. 

Another letter, available with this scribe, was written in November by Imran Akhtar Khan in which he had requested for approval of sending the same plane to Malta for a shooting. 

It is clearly mentioned in the letter, para 4 (b), that after the shooting, the plane would be permanently deployed at Leipzig/Halle Airport at the rate of 475,000 euros. 

When contacted Saturday, PIA Director P&L Imran Akhtar Khan claimed that the plane hasn’t been sold out yet.

“The Acting CEO has approved the sale of the plane but the board is yet to give its approval of the same and the matter is still pending,” Imran said, adding the plane has been sent to Leipzig for parking purposes only. This parked PIA aircraft would also serve as a brand ambassador and a marketing tool to promote the national carrier in Europe, Imran remarked. 

Imran Akhtar also denied any financial transaction as a result of this arrangement. ”We haven’t charged anything from Leipzig neither they charge a single penny from us for the parking,” the director held. 

To a question why a flying plane has been sold against the agreed deal in which it has to be sold without engines, he said, “We might get good buyers for engines there.”

When Imran’s attention was drawn towards his one letter in which he had stated that the plane would permanently be deployed at Leipzig against 475,000 euros but later the same plane was allegedly sold out against 47,500 euros, the PIA official said it was a typographic error. An extra zero was written in my first due to an error, he added. 

When contacted, PIA Spokesman Danyal Gilani sent a written reply to queries shared with him regarding the alleged sale of the aircraft. 

Gilani said A-310 is an old aircraft. In fact, this fuel guzzler is an obsolete aircraft with just a few airlines operating this type mostly for cargo operations. As per Pakistan's National Aviation Policy of 2015, any aircraft older than 20 years cannot fly for a Pakistani airline. The PIA retired its fleet of ageing Airbus A310s way before this deadline on 31 December 2016, he said.

For disposing off the four A-310 aircraft, the PIA initiated a tendering process in August 2016 when all these aircraft were still airworthy and being used in PIA operations, the spokesman added. 

In order to find buyers for these aircraft, the PIA advertised twice, in August and November last year, but no buyer showed interest. 

“Currently one of the aircraft is participating in an exhibition in Germany. A museum in Leipzig has expressed its desire of buying this aircraft and keeping it in their museum in PIA's livery as a symbol of PIA's presence in Europe. But PIA has yet to take a final decision on it. So the plane is still very much PIA's property,” Gilani added. 

The spokesman further claimed that after the August advertisement, internal approval (from Acting CEO) was obtained for selling one of the four aircraft to the above-mentioned museum, but soon afterwards, it was decided to advertise again to find suitable buyers for all the four aircraft and the sale of this specific aircraft did not materialize. The remaining three grounded A-310 aircraft are still at Karachi airport, as no buyer has expressed interest in buying them, he concluded. 

 

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