KARACHI: An accountability court has granted one more week, as a last chance, to the National Accountability Bureau to decide a summary seeking approval to file a reference in the Rs18 billion Fazaia Housing Scheme land scam.

Suspects Tanvir Ahmed and Bilal Tanvir of Maxim Properties have been arrested on charges of cheating the public in the name of the Fazaia Housing Scheme launched as a joint venture with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in 2015.

The investigating officer, Aslam Pervaiz Abro, recently filed a progress report before the administrative judge of the accountability courts, Dr Sher Bano Karim.

In the report, the IO stated that the regional board meeting (RBM) of NAB was held on March 16 and recommended filing of a reference after approval of the competent authority, ie the NAB chairman.

The judge gives one more week to NAB to decide approval of reference in the Rs18bn land scam

He stated that a summary was sent to the NAB headquarters for further processing on March 18, but no decision could be taken so far reportedly due to the prevailing situation of the coronavirus in the country.

Special Public Prosecutor Shahbaz Sahotra informed the court that the case was being legally vetted by the prosecutor general accountability (PGA) of NAB and would be presented in the executive board meeting (EBM) for a decision.

However, he said, no decision in this regard could be taken so far by the competent authority due to the coronavirus situation in the country.

The prosecutor requested the judge to grant more time to enable NAB authorities to decide the summary and to file a reference, if the summary was approved by the competent authority.

Allowing the request, the judge granted one week’s time, as a last chance, to the IO and adjourned the hearing till April 15.

In a previous hearing, the IO had filed a progress report submitting that both the suspects allegedly deliberately kept site/location of the project concealed to dodge the general public in the name of the PAF with intention of extracting maximum funds from hapless affectees.

The IO stated that during the course of interrogation of the suspects it had come on record that they illegally charged people an amount of Rs39 million as surcharge, Rs77m processing fees, Rs9bn on apartments, Rs5bn on bungalows, and more clues of their illegal accumulation of wealth were being unearthed to uncover the exact quantum of the fraud.

With regard to the land fraud, the IO said that further evidence had come on record that the Sindh government had already issued a notification in 2014 regarding the land for the K-IV water supply project by invoking Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act 1894.

But, the IO stated, the detained suspects concealed this fact on purpose and managed to get the PAF to accept the land falling in the K-IV project for its housing scheme in 2015 in connivance with other accomplices. The mala fide intentions were apparent from the fact they collected funds from the people for the land which was already earmarked for a government project and was in process of acquisition, the IO added.

On top of it, this land was subsequently exchanged with another government land, which was required to be inspected as both the builders had yet to disclose its location, the report said, adding that the suspects altered layout plans six times and finally decided to build 8,043 units whereby the PAF owns 4,042 units and M/s Maxim had the right to 4,041 units as per their proportional quota.

The report mentioned that the PAF record suggested that out of 4,042 units of its quota, it had sold only 1,542 units to its employees.

During the scrutiny of the record it was found that contrary to the proportion agreed upon, the suspects sold more than 5,750 units — 1,700 units higher than their fixed quota of 4,041.

The IO said that the detained builders were also taken to the site of the project-II where they had planned to build 2,630 flats and 2,649 bungalows (total 5,279 housing units) in four sectors of 369 acres. However, the inspection showed that the site for 5,279 housing units encompassed 182 acres of the government land which the suspects had criminally occupied by way of manipulating the land record in connivance with their partners in the scam.

“Over the period of more than four years, the builders have done just spade work on the project, i.e. boundary wall, excavation at some places, marketing office, skeleton of tower, model houses, a grounded Air Force jet at the entrance, cricket ground, road and pavements and some basement work. That is not even two per cent work in the span of four years,” it added.

It added that the builders used money of the affectees for shopping online and making credit card payments, adding they were also asked about the purpose of payment to 170 people/companies and details of the payees, but they were allegedly deliberately concealing the identity of those individuals and company owners.

The IO mentioned that 170 individuals were to be tracked down to ensure recovery of affectees’ money and uncover the other beneficiaries.

It mentioned that the PAF had already submitted an application with NAB for refund to the affectees and was further willing to settle all liabilities.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2020