ISLAMABAD: Property tycoon Malik Riaz got off scot-free in a reference related to the illegal allotment of an amenity plot for his skyscraper in Karachi, Bahria Icon Tower (BIT), on Thursday when an accountability court returned the case citing lack of jurisdiction.
While in a separate case in which he was supposed to appear before an investigation team in connection with a 190-million-pound settlement, Malik Riaz did not show up.
Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir, while disposing of the applications filed by the suspects in the BIT reference on the basis of amendments in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) introduced by the current government, observed that since he lacked jurisdiction to hear the reference, the case is being remanded to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for onward transmission to the competent forum.
The reference was filed about three years ago and NAB had nominated 15 suspects in it.
According to the reference, the suspects have caused a loss of over Rs100 billion to the exchequer by illegally allotting the amenity plot belonging to Bagh Ibne Qasim, Karachi, and allowing construction of the skyscraper on it. BIT is located near the coast.
The BIT reference is an offshoot of the fake bank accounts case.
Besides Malik Riaz and his son Ali Riaz Malik, other suspects include Dr Dinshaw Anklesaria, Liaquat Qaimkhani, Yousaf Baloch, Waqas Raffat, Ghulam Arif, Khawaja Shafique, Abdul Subhan Memon, Jamil Baloch, Afzal Aziz, Syed Mohammad Shah, Khurram Arif, Abdul Karim Paleejo and Khawaja Badee-uz-Zaman.
Tycoon skips appearance
Malik Riaz, who was summoned by NAB in connection with a probe into the 190m pound (Rs50bn) settlement on Thursday, remained absent.
According to a NAB letter, the Bahria Town owner was asked to come up with complete record regarding purchase of 458 kanals at Tehsil Sohawa, the agreement through which Bahria Town had donated land to Al Qadir Trust along with revenue documents, and details of other property transferred by him, or by any of his relatives, in favour of Al Qadir Trust or any of its trustees.
According to unconfirmed reports, PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s wife is said to be one of the trustees. “You are advised that failing to comply with this notice may entail penal consequences under NAO 1999,” the real estate tycoon was warned.
In June, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah accused Mr Khan and his wife of accepting Rs5bn and hundreds of kanals of land from Bahria Town for protecting the real estate firm in a money laundering case.
In December 2019, Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) had accepted a settlement offer of £190m, which included a UK property — 1 Hyde Park Place, London, W2 2LH. It was valued approximately at £50m and all of the funds landed in the frozen accounts of Malik Riaz.
The NCA has been granted freezing orders on eight bank accounts containing more than £100m, which is suspected to have been derived from bribery and corruption overseas. Approximately, £20m held by a related individual was frozen following a hearing in December 2018.
In March that year, a three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, had accepted a Rs460bn offer by Bahria Town to implement the court’s judgement which held that grant of land to the Malir Development Authority by the Sindh government, its exchange with the developer’s private land and anything done under the provisions of the Colonisation of Government Land Act of 1912 by the provincial government were illegal and of no legal existence.
Later, former prime minister Imran Khan and his wife were accused of accepting billions in cash and hundreds of kanals of land from Bahria Town in return for the help that Mr Khan’s government extended to Malik Riaz during the NCA investigation against him.
NAB had earlier sent notices to 21 members of Imran Khan’s cabinet. Prominent among them were Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Murad Saeed, Pervez Khattak, Shafqat Mahmood, Shireen Mazari, Ali Haider Zaidi and Hammad Azhar.
Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2022