KARACHI: An accountability court on Monday extended the remand of two detained builders for 10 more days in connection with a probe into reports of fraud in the Fazaia Housing Scheme.

The National Accountability Bureau had arrested Tanveer Ahmed and Bilal Tanveer, said to be partners in the housing project, for allegedly depriving the public of Rs13 billion through investments in the Fazaia Housing Scheme.

On Monday, the investigating officer of the case, Aslam Pervez Abro, produced both the suspects before the administrative judge of the accountability courts, Judge Aaliya Latif Unnar, and sought extension in their physical custody for further interrogation and investigation.

The IO submitted a progress report stating that the suspects in 2015 reportedly entered into an agreement with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) for jointly launching a housing society on the basis of a 50 per cent partnership.

Most of the affected persons are overseas Pakistanis

He stated that the suspects showed availability of around 400 acres, adding that they sold 130,000 forms to people against a non-refundable fee of Rs2,000 each, thus collected Rs1.5bn from the public.

The IO further stated that during the course of the inquiry around 14 bank accounts jointly operated by the two builders and some serving PAF officials had been detected, adding that call-up notices had also been issued to the said PAF officials to explain their position in this regard.

He also showed the copies of the call-up notices and claimed that the suspects collected Rs18bn from around 6,000 allottees, adding that currently Rs13bn was found in their bank accounts.

Special Public Prosecutor Shahbaz Sahotra informed the judge that the suspects had transferred around Rs2.3bn from the joint accounts to their personal accounts, which were required to be investigated. Most of the affected persons were overseas Pakistanis, who had been cheated and defrauded, he added.

He pleaded to the court to grant extension in the physical remand for further interrogation and completion of the investigation.

The defence counsel for the suspects, Ravi Panjani, opposed the plea for extension in their remand stating that his clients had already filed a petition in the Sindh High Court apprehending their arrest and any action likely to be taken by NAB authorities against them.

He alleged that NAB arrested the suspects unlawfully since their petition was still pending before the high court. He asked the court to dismiss the IO’s request for extension in their physical remand.

The prosecutor submitted that the suspects were taken into custody after fulfilling all legal requirements, thus their arrest was strictly in accordance with the law.

He said there was no restraining order passed by the SHC regarding any action by NAB against the suspects.

After hearing arguments, the judge extended physical remand of the suspects in NAB custody by 10 days directing the IO to produce them on the next date along with a progress report.

In November, NAB had launched a fresh inquiry against the Fazaia Housing Scheme regarding allegation of cheating over 6,000 people. It had said that the inquiry was initiated on a number of complaints received from different individuals, who claimed to have collectively invested around Rs13bn.

NAB alleged that the suspects in connivance with their accomplices fraudulently launched the housing scheme in the name of the PAF without fulfilling mandatory legal requirements, including a no-objection certificate and layout plan by the departments concerned.

The complainant alleged the housing society’s partners and planners of cheating over 6,000 people, it added.

NAB started the inquiry after videos of protests by dozens of people, including women and children, outside the Fazaia Housing Scheme office went viral on social media.

According to the scheme’s website, the society was launched by the PAF for serving and retired personnel and civilians in March 2015.

Officials of the Sindh Board of Revenue (BoR) and Land Utilisation Department (LUD) are among those facing the probe.

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2020

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