ISLAMABAD: Two officers of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) came up with conflicting versions about the Grand Hyatt Hotel project in front of a parliamentary committee on Thursday — with one terming it a mega fraud case and the other arguing otherwise.
The remarks by the officers surprised members of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat during a meeting with Rana Mohammad Hayat Khan in the chair.
In 2016, the CDA canceled the 13.5 acre plot on which the high-rise hotel building was being constructed. The Islamabad High Court (IHC) also upheld the CDA’s action, declaring the construction of luxury apartments on the land meant for the hotel illegal.
NA body surprised after one officer termed it a mega fraud case and the other thought otherwise
Justice Athar Minallah of the IHC held that the “construction of residential apartments on the plot and the purported sale thereof was illegal, void and in flagrant abuse and violation of CDA Ordinance 1960 read with the zoning regulations, building regulations and the building control regulations.”
Last year, the FIA Lahore had carried out an investigation into the matter on the direction of the federal government.
On Thursday, FIA Islamabad Director retired Capt Mohammad Shoaib, who a few months ago had conducted a fresh inquiry into the case, told the committee that his team could not substantiate the allegations of fraud against the owner and abuse of power and authority by the CDA officers.
He said an earlier investigation by the FIA Lahore had not been carried out properly. The director said there was no evidence which could point out corruption in the project.
In his inquiry report, Mr Shoaib had also dropped charges against former members of the CDA board and the owner of the plot.
But acting Deputy Director Jamil Ahmed Khan of FIA Lahore told the committee that it was a mega fraud case worth Rs25 billion. He said from the very start the owner, in connivance with the CDA, got undue favour.
He said the CDA had auctioned the plot against almost Rs4.8 billion but so far the owner paid only around Rs1.2 billion. He said the owner had already collected over six billion rupees by selling apartments which were not meant for sale. He said the CDA did not follow proper rules while auctioning the plot, and no bank and performance guarantees were taken from the bidder.
He said without making full payment, the owner had taken Rs1 billion loan from the Bank of Punjab and in return handed over a part of the plot to the bank.
He complained that while carrying out the fresh inquiry the director FIA Islamabad had not heard the investigation team properly.
He said the FIA Lahore had last year registered an FIR against former CDA members and the owner of the project.
But the owner of the plot, Hafeez Pasha, told the committee that his project was transparent and he had fulfilled all the requirements. But because of CDA’s negligence the project was not started on time. He said there was nothing wrong on his part rather the CDA had taken time for finalising the building standards.
Perturbed over two the conflicting versions, the committee chairman asked the FIA officers who had assigned them to attend the meeting. The officers said they had come to the meeting on the direction of the FIA director general.
The chairman said the CDA had auctioned the plot about 13 years ago against Rs 4.8bn but so far the owner of the plot had paid only Rs1.2 billion. “So that’s the fraud?”
CDA Member Estate Khushal Khan said after pointing out violations the civic agency had canceled the plot.
Earlier, MNA Asad Umar of the PTI requested the committee chairman to issue directions whatever he deems fit.
The chairman was told that cases regarding the project were being heard by the Supreme Court and the IHC. The committee then asked the FIA to purse the court cases effectively for early adjudication.
Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2018