LAHORE: An accountability court has granted a 14-day extension to the judicial remand of the Khawaja brothers in the Paragon Housing Society scam.
Former Punjab health minister Khawaja Salman Rafique was produced before the court on Thursday amid tight security. Former railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique was not present as he was in Islamabad to attend the National Assembly session.
The court expressed displeasure over the inconvenience caused due of the security measures.
It also asked for the filing of a reference against the accused and the prosecutor replied that he same would be submitted soon. The court adjourned the hearing after extending the judicial remand of accused persons till May 16.
A few days ago, the NAB Lahore Regional Board of Directors approved the filing of the reference. It had been forwarded to the headquarters for final approval. As far as the details of the case were concerned, Qaiser Amin Butt and accused Nadeem Zia had established a company named Air Avenue Pvt Ltd in June 2003. Later, it was converted to M/S Paragon City on August 2003. Butt and Nadeem Zia remained Paragon City Scheme directors, whereas both applied for the approval of a layout plan from the nazim of Aziz Bhatti Town in Lahore. The land of the scheme measured 7,002 kanals and technical approval could only be taken in January 2005.
At the time of seeking approval, Paragon City owned just 1,085 of kanals, which is far less than the layout plan of 7,002 kanals. During the course of case proceedings, it was revealed that Paragon City Housing Scheme still remained an illegal project which had not been approved by the Lahore Development Authority (LDA).
The role of Khawaja Saad Rafique and Khawaja Salman Rafique in this case was related to embezzlement as both allegedly obtained 20 plots in the society measuring two kanals each. These were taken as exemption against the transfer of 50 kanals of land to Paragon City.
Khawaja Saad Rafique remained the sole proprietor of Saadain Associates and Salman Rafique played the some role in KSR Associates. Moreover, Butt was arrested by NAB Lahore on November 14, 2018 and recorded his statement to become an approver against the Khawaja brothers and accused Nadeem Zia.
The statement was recorded before the magistrate in December 2018. So far, 68 claims from the general public, amounting to Rs549 million, have been received against the management of the society.
An investigation report, with a recommendation to approve the filing of the reference, has been forwarded to NAB HQs for ultimate approval from by the bureau’s chairman Justice Javed lqbal.
Munafa Network Marketing case
Meanwhile, an accountability court extended the judicial remand of 33 suspects in the Munafa Network Marketing (MNM) scam. The investigation officer presented the investigation’s report and the court ordered him to file the reference at the earliest.
The MNM case involved corruption worth Rs11 billion. The case details revealed that the owner of MNM Motorcycle Scam, Ahmed Sayal, got his multilevel marketing (MLM) firm registered with the Securities Exchange Commissions of Pakistan (SECP) in 2017. He started his business of the import and export of spare parts, whereas he later launched a company named MNM. This company would receive hefty amounts on the pretext of providing motorcycles after receiving Rs25,000 and promising the delivery of bikes within 45 days.
Meanwhile, hundreds of offices were opened in different cities like Jhang and Bhakkar where thousands of agents were collecting billions of rupees from the general public just on their own commission worth Rs1,000 per bike. Initially, the owners of MNM distributed around 20,000 motorcycles as a confidence-building move to attract more investments.
However, suspecting foul play, SECP referred the case to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), The case was later transferred to NAB Lahore in September 2017 by keeping in view the magnitude of the embezzlement. Also, investigations by the regional police and FIA failed to unearth meaningful evidence.
NAB arrested over three dozen suspects in the case and a few of them were released after striking a plea bargain.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2019.