The Accountability Court in Lahore has sentenced former PML-N MPA Sohail Zia Butt to prison.
The former MPA was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau on Wednesday over his alleged involvement in a National Industrial Cooperative Corporation scam.
Updated from print edition (below)
Sohail Butt eluded NAB for eight years
Sohail Zia Butt, the brother-in-law of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, is not only a proclaimed offender in a case of financial embezzlement involving Rs230 million, but has also been found to be a defaulter of Rs10.28 million of the Punjab Cooperative Board of Liquidation (PCBL), it emerged during investigation by The Express Tribune.
The outstanding loan includes a principal amount of Rs6.7 million, mark-up of Rs3.2 million up to August 1993, and liquidation expenses of Rs335,000 claimed by the PCBL, official documents show.
Umar Zia Butt, the son of Sohail, however said there is no truth to the case. “The administration has not provided us any reference regarding outstanding loans yet. All the allegations are mere rumours,” he said.
He alleged that the arrest warrants were bogus. “It is a politically-motivated campaign against us,” he asserted.
Investigations by The Express Tribune show that, in 1988, Chaudhry Abdul Majid, executive director of National Industrial Cooperative Finance Corporation (NICFC), along with five other directors proposed the purchase of a property known as Ahmad Mansion, 49-A, The Mall, Lahore, in the name of the corporation.
The matter was referred to legal adviser of the corporation who opposed the purchase. While ignoring the legal opinion, Sohail Zia Butt and Chaudhry Majid signed an agreement. Butt was made a 50 per cent partner to the profit to be made after the purchase of the property.
Though there was no investment by him, the profit was to be a reward to Butt as he would get the Ahmad Mansion vacated from the unauthorised occupants and hand over the building to NICFC. Zia was paid Rs2 million in September 1991 for this unauthorised job.
NICFC purchased 85 per cent portion of the building from 18 vendors. The remaining 15 per cent share of the property was in illegal possession of trespassers, though owned by one Sadat Ali Khan.
In November 1989, Awais Zia Butt, brother of Sohail Butt, entered into an agreement with Sadat for the purchase of the remaining 15 per cent portion for Rs3.2 million. In connivance with the board of directors, Awais sold this portion to NICFC for Rs6.5 million without completion of the sale deed. In this deal, Awais illegally pocketed Rs3.3 million.
The NICFC later went bankrupt and the Punjab government introduced the Punjab Undesirable Cooperative Societies Act 1993. All the properties were shifted to the PCBL for recovery and sale of confiscated properties to compensate the affected families.
On the request of affected persons and families, a reference No.31/2001 under section 18(G) and 24(B) of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Ordinance was filed against five members of the board of directors of NICFC, namely Ch Tajamal Hussain, Ch Abdul Majeed, Mehr Khuda Dad Lak, Muhammad Munir, Ghulam Rasool, as well as Sohail Zia Butt and his brother Awais. The two brothers were not part of the board of directors.
After thorough investigation regarding the loss to NICFC through fraud and embezzlement of funds, then chairman of NAB Lt-Gen Khalid Maqbool on August 7, 2001, sent the reference to court for trial in accordance with the law. During the trial, Ch Tajamal, Mehr Khuda Dad Khan and Awais Zia Butt entered into plea-bargain and were exonerated.
The court convicted Majid for three years with a Rs10 million fine. Munir and Ghulam Rasool were convicted for one year and fined Rs1 million each.
In August 2002, Sohail Zia Butt, who did not join the investigation, was declared a proclaimed offender. He was awarded a three-year jail term under section 31-A of the NAB Ordinance.
The accused was abroad and could not be arrested by the NAB authorities on the court conviction orders. He returned to the country a few years ago, and the NAB has since been trying to trace him in a bid to execute his arrest warrants issued by the NAB court.
On Wednesday, NAB got solid information about Sohail’s whereabouts and arrested him when he was travelling back home after attending a funeral. Sohail was shifted to Chamba House immediately for production in court.
Talking to The Express Tribune, an official claimed that he was provided all facilities, including a mobile phone to talk to the family and his counsel about the case. The authorities also allowed his son Umer Zia Butt to meet him in custody, he added.In addition to the Ahmed Mansion scam, Sohail procured a Rs6.7 million loan from NICFC before its dissolution which was not yet paid. When the assets of the defunct NICFC were handed over to the PCBL to disburse the claims of the affected families, it also emerged that an outstanding loan of Rs6.7 million was unpaid by Sohail Zia Butt.
The PCBL served recovery notices of outstanding sums of Rs10.28 million (Rs6.7 million principal amount, Rs3.2 million mark-up, Rs335,000 liquidation expenses) under section 7 of the Punjab Undesirable Cooperative Societies Act 1993 for payment.
Sources said Sohail did not bother to pay a single penny and even did not make any effort to settle the issue with the board despite several requests.
Now the PCBL as legal successor to NICFC has supplied the relevant documents to NAB for the recovery of this outstanding amount.
The likely recovered amount would be paid to the affected families, a PCBL official told The Express Tribune.
Sohail Zia Butt is a former member of provincial assembly, father of sitting PML-N MNA Umar Zia Butt and brother-in-law of Nawaz Sharif.
On Thursday, NAB authorities produced Sohail before an accountability court which granted a two-day remand for further investigation
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2010.
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