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Four assets of EOBI’s ex-chief seized, court told

July 21, 2013
—File Photo.
—File Photo.

ISLAMABAD: During an ongoing investigation into the Rs40 billion Employees Old-age Benefits Institution (EOBI) scam, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has unearthed and seized four properties in different cities belonging to its former chairman, Zafar Iqbal Gondal.

Submitted by Additional Director General for Law Mohammad Azam Khan to the Supreme Court, a preliminary inquiry report suggests that Mr Gondal owns land measuring 537 kanals in Mandi Bahauddin, a farmhouse spread over 19 kanals in Islamabad, a plot measuring four kanals and eight marlas in Banni Galla area of Islamabad, a plot measuring 556 square yards in Sector E-12 of Islamabad and a Prado Land Cruiser which was purchased by the EOBI allegedly in violation of rules.

Mr Gondal has been accused of having allowed investment in private sector development projects without seeking prior approval of the EOBI’s board of trustees in violation of public procurement rules which call for ensuring transparency in government enterprises’ dealings with public sector.

Some of the investments made by the EOBI are said to be related to the purchase of following: plots in the Defence Housing Authority (DHA), Islamabad/ Rawalpindi, the Crown Plaza in F-7 Markaz of the city, two 4,300cc Prado Land Cruisers for personal use of officials, two controversial plots in Sukkur, seven plots in Islamabad, land measuring 40 kanals and 16 marlas in Lahore, four floors of a plaza/hotel in Lahore and land worth Rs20 million near Karachi airport etc. Investment was also made for the construction of a seven star hotel near Lahore airport and M-9 Motorway.

The FIA, after registering an FIR about the purchase of the Land Cruisers, has recovered and impounded the vehicles and arrested Wahid Khurshid, EOBI’s director investigation on the charge of being involved in the deals.

On Friday a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had ordered freezing of the DHA’s bank accounts until it deposited a staggering Rs22.29bn at the office of the court registrar.

About the investment of Rs650 million in the purchase of the Crown Plaza spread over 600 square yards, the FIA report said that the EOBI had paid an exorbitant price of Rs1.02bn to buy the five-storey building.

The investigators believe that it was a mutually agreed price as a result of a kickback of Rs150mn. The bid was prepared by Mirza Abdullah Baig, a property dealer, and sent to Wahid Khurshid who gave a counter offer of Rs1.02bn on April 25, 2012. Asked by Khurshid, Shujja Hussain of Diamen Associates inspected the property for price evaluation on April 20, 2012.

According to the report, Abdul Qayyum, the seller of the Crown Plaza, had told the FIA about wrongful and illegal payments made to Masood Ahmed Chaudhry and other officials of the EOBI. His statement was endorsed by the manager of the National Bank of Pakistan’s Melody branch.

The FIA assured the apex court that it would conduct a fair market evaluation of the property through the National Engineering Services Pakistan.

To expose the nexus between Gondal, Khurshid, Qayyum and Chaudhry, their possible interconnected bank transactions would be scrutinised, the FIA said.

About the purchase of a plot measuring eight kanals and located at Moza Kallar Kahar, Chakwal district, at a price of Rs32m, the FIA report said that two members of a committee -- Arif Ellahi, labour secretary of Sindh, and Abid Mahmood, a representative of the Ministry of Human Resource Development -- had objected to investments in small towns, saying they would yield little benefit to the institution.

The revenue record requisitioned from the district coordination officer of Chakwal highlighted that the property was part of the land owned by one Maqsoodul Hassan and its possession was never taken by the EOBI, the FIA report said.

As the land was a joint property of some people, its other owners might file a suit to claim a share in the plot.

Prime facie, the FIA said, the deal did not appear to be transparent since the seller is brother of Raja Azeem, son-in-law of former prime minister Raja Parvez Ashraf. Same is the case with the open plot measuring 1.9 kanals and located on Chakwal-Talagang road. The plot was purchased for Rs60.4m from Sanaul Haq but the sale deed showed the price at Rs11.7m. Haq is also a brother of Azeem.

A case about the plot was pending in the court, the report said and added that it had been purchased in complete disregard of the EOBI rules.