A Hyderabad anti-corruption court on Thursday remanded former Matiari deputy commissioner Adnan Rasheed to judicial custody till December 7 in connection with an investigation into a scam concerning land acquisition for the M6 (Hyderabad-Sukkur) motorway.

Rasheed was arrested by Hyderabad's Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) on November 17. Former Saeedabad assistant com­m­i­ss­ioner Mansoor Abbasi was also involved in the scandal as well as the Saeedabad branch of Sindh Bank.

Details indicate that over Rs2.14bn was withdrawn from Sindh Bank's Saeedabad branch through open bearer cheques, under the pretext of land acquisition for the Hyderabad-Sukkur M6 motorway. However, no procedural requirements were met before the withdrawals were made.

On Thursday, Rasheed was presented before Special Judge Zahoor Ahmed Hakro. The ACE sought further remand of the accused, saying that Rasheed's detailed statement had not yet been recorded.

However, the court refused the request, saying the ACE lacked sufficient grounds to seek Rasheed's remand. Subsequently, Rasheed was sent to Nara jail in Hyderabad on judicial remand for six days.

Earlier this week, the court rejected the pre-arrest bail of Abbasi and Sindh Bank Area Manager Tabish Shah in the aforementioned case.

On the information provided by Rasheed, the ACE had recovered Rs420m from the official residence of the assistant commissioner which was located upstairs in his office. The recovery had been disclosed before the court by prosecutor Mazhar Ali Siyal.

An amount of Rs2.14bn was withdrawn in 26 days between October 17 and November 11 this year although funds for land acquisition of the M6 Motorway project were transferred by National Highway Authority (NHA) in 2018.

Last month on November 13, the Sindh government formed a two-member fact-finding team that documented details of embezzlement and illegal withdrawal of funds from the Sindh Bank. According to their findings, Rs2.14bn was withdrawn. Later, more funds were withdrawn in cash, taking the amount to a total of Rs2.3bn.

This amount was withdrawn by the former Saeedabad AC for disbursement of payment to landowners whose lands were to be acquired for the construction of the M6 Hyderabad-Sukkur Motorway under the Land Acquisition Act 1894.

Interestingly, the amount of Rs2.3bn was withdrawn and disbursed among people even without the passage of the Land Acquisition Award under the provision of section 11 of LAA 1894 by the concerned land acquisition officer as a mandatory requirement.

Besides Matiari, another similar fraud was reported in Sindh Bank’s branch in Naushahro Feroz where Rs3.61bn was said to be withdrawn in cash by then DC Tashfeen Alam. He was suspended on November 22.

Around 850 landowners were said to have received land compensation under LAA 1894 and an award under the mandatory requirement of Section 11 was indeed passed.

However, inquiries revealed that some people “engineered” the embezzlement in collusion with revenue officials that had taken place in Sindh Bank.

The former DC had notified himself as the land acquisition officer for the entire Naushahro Feroz district which was not needed. Payments to landowners were made in cash in June 2022.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has also initiated inquiries in both cases. Sindh Bank’s management had also probed the matter and found three officials responsible for wrongdoing. These three officials were arrested after a complaint was filed before FIA by Senior Executive Vice President of Sindh Bank Asad Ali Shah.

NHA General Manager Parkash Lohano has also filed a complaint before FIA, seeking the registration of a case into the suspicious transactions and misuse of land acquisition funds in the M6 Motorway project.

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