NAB chief signed reference for probe into Fazaia Housing scam, court told

Updated 15 May 2020

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IO says original copy had been received from the NAB headquarters. — Dawn archives
IO says original copy had been received from the NAB headquarters. — Dawn archives

KARACHI: The chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has signed a reference relating to an inquiry into the Rs18 billion scam of the Fazaia Housing Scheme allegedly launched by private builders as a joint venture with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in 2015.

This was disclosed by an investigating officer in a progress report regarding the alleged scam filed with the administrative judge of the accountability courts, Dr Sher Bano Karim, on Thursday.

Suspects Tanvir Ahmed and Bilal Tanvir of the M/s 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 PAF in 2015.

On the last date, the judge had granted more time to file reference after the IO disclosed that the parties (PAF and M/s Maxim Properties) were trying to reach a settlement so that the allottees could be refunded, for which an arrangement was likely to be made by May 14.

Hundreds of thousands of documents are being photocopied in separate sets for each accused person

On Thursday, when the matter came before the administrative judge, IO Pervaiz Abro filed a progress report through special public prosecutor Shahbaz Sahotra stating that the NAB chairman had signed the reference with regard to the present inquiry and its original copy had been received from the NAB headquarters.

The report mentioned that the matter pertained to cheating the public in the name of housing project involving Rs18.2 billion collected from 5,700 allottees.

However, the report stated that the matter involved huge volume of record, including hundreds of thousands of documents of the affectees’ claims, booking/installments receipts, voluminous bank account statements, engineering estimates, architectural plans, designs, including the multiple revised master plans, advertising material, huge payment record pertaining to thousands of the registered members and other miscellaneous documents.

The record is being photocopied in separate sets for each accused person, the report said, adding that the photocopying process had been affected due to the current pandemic situation prevailing in the whole country as the markets were closed during the lockdown.

Prosecutor Shahbaz Sahotra informed that efforts were under way to complete the process of photocopies of the reference documents, as expeditiously as possible, to file the reference with the court.

He requested the court to grant 14-day time to the IO to enable him file the reference with all sets of relevant documents.

Allowing the request, the judge directed the IO to file the reference till May 15 and adjourned the hearing.

In a previous progress report, the IO had mentioned that both suspects allegedly deliberately kept the site/location of the project concealed, dodging the public in the name of PAF with the intention to extract maximum amounts from the affected persons.

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

The IO stated that during the interrogation of the suspects it had come on record that they illegally charged the allottees an amount of Rs39 million as a surcharge, Rs77m as processing fees, Rs9bn on apartments, Rs5bn on bungalows and more facts about their illegal accumulation of money 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 hid this fact and managed to get the PAF accept the land falling under the K-IV project for its housing scheme in 2015 with the connivance of other accomplices.

The mala fide intentions were apparent from the fact that they collected money from people for the land already earmarked for a government project, the IO added.

He said that 170 individuals/companies, who were paid, were to be tracked to ensure the recovery of the affectees’ money and find the other beneficiaries.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2020