LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday denied post-arrest bail to former railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother former provincial minister Khawaja Salman Rafique in the Paragon City case.

Announcing a short order, a two-judge LHC bench comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem said the reasons for dismissal of bail petitions would be given in a detailed verdict to be issued later.

Earlier, during the final arguments, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) special prosecutor Chaudhry Khaliquz Zaman told the bench that the Khawaja brothers were the owners of the housing scheme, which was not approved by the Lahore Development Authority (LDA). He said the town municipal administration concerned had approved the scheme on a temporary basis.

When asked what action the LDA had taken against the illegal housing scheme, the NAB prosecutor said both brothers were in government and it was not possible for the authority to initiate any action against them. He told the court that Qaiser Amin Butt, a former MPA and partner of the Khawaja brothers, had become an approver in the case.

The bench expressed its wonder when the NAB prosecutor pointed out that an inquiry initiated against Mr Rafique in 2007 for allegedly having assets beyond means had been dropped on the grounds that he won prize bonds worth Rs48 million.

However, the counsel for the petitioners argued that NAB had discharged the inquiry on merit and also issued an apology. He also doubted the confessional statement of Mr Butt, saying it was extracted under duress. He said NAB had twice produced Mr Butt before a judicial magistrate for recording his confession as the bureau chairman did not like his first statement. He contended that it was unprecedented that a suspect was made to record his ‘confession’ twice.

The counsel said Mr Butt and Nadeem Zia, the owner of the scheme, were friends of the Khawaja brothers, and not partners. He said the prosecution had failed to furnish any documentary evidence to establish ownership of the housing scheme in favour of the petitioners.

After hearing the arguments, the bench dismissed the petitions through a short order.

Ashtar Ausaf Ali and Azam Nazir Tarar represented the petitioners.

NAB has already filed in a trial court a reference accusing the Khawaja brothers of wrongfully gaining about Rs18.2m from M/s Paragon City (Pvt) Limited in their bank accounts. According to the reference, Khawaja Rafique established a proprietorship concern namely M/s Saadan Associates whereby he wrongfully gained an amount of Rs58m from M/s Executive Builders, a proxy of Paragon City, over the past few years under the garb of consultancy services.

Similarly, the reference accused Khawaja Salman of establishing M/s KSR Associates and receiving Rs39m from Executive Builders under the garb of consultancy services.

Paragon’s directors Nadeem Zia, Umar Zia and Farhan Ali have also been implicated as suspects in the reference. However, they have been declared absconders.

The Khawaja brothers were arrested on Dec 11 last year after the LHC had dismissed their pre-arrest bail they enjoyed for almost three months.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2019