The alleged multibillion-rupee scam in the Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) took a nasty turn for the Defence Housing Authority (DHA), Islamabad/Rawalpindi on Friday.
The Supreme Court ordered freezing of the DHA’s bank accounts following its failure to deposit Rs22 billion with the registrar in compliance with the apex court’s earlier orders.
“All the accounts of the DHA Islamabad/Rawalpindi are being frozen till the authority deposits the money with the registrar of this court. During the course of the day the list of the DHA accounts is to be filed with the registrar,” ordered a three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
The bench was hearing a suo motu case regarding an alleged Rs40 billion scam in the EOBI. The bench ordered that all the banks in which the DHA maintains accounts file daily reports with the registrar, while the DHA will not be able to open new accounts.
In the meantime if the DHA wants to deposit the money in question, it can file an affidavit, deposit the money and get its accounts unfrozen, the bench observed.
The DHA counsel, Advocate Ahmer Bilal Soofi, informed the court that his client did not have the money in cash to deposit with the registrar. On July 17, the bench had given the DHA 48 hours to deposit the money.
Furthermore Advocate Sufi said that the DHA had already issued allotment letters for 50 acres of land the EOBI purchased in 2011 and 2012.
“You have only given them pieces of papers. The allotment letters are not equal to transfer of title of the land as possession has not been handed over to the EOBI,” observed Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, another member of the bench.
Justice Chaudhry took note of the last payment made by the EOBI to the DHA on March 15, 2013 – the last day in office of the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government. The hearing was adjourned till July 26.
The inquiry report submitted by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) regarding the EOBI deal with the DHA and purchase of land in Chakwal claimed that the deals were not transparent.
Flouting its rules, the EOBI invested in the private sector and purchased ‘raw land’ while paying price for ‘developed plots’ after an evaluation of the land’s market value by inexperienced and unqualified persons, FIA’s Additional Director General (Legal) Azam Khan informed the bench.
According to the FIA report – a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune – the EOBI paid the DHA Rs15.473 billion on January 18, 2012 for purchase of 321 kanals [50 acres] of land and another Rs6.82 billion on March 15, 2013 for the purchase of plots in Sector-F, Phase-I of DHA, Rawalpindi.
“The EOBI got the land evaluated by M/s Diamen Associates. The managing director of the firm, Wamiq, and his employee, Shujja, were questioned by the FIA. It was learnt that Shujja carried out the evaluation study while he does not have the intermediate certificate and has no relevant experience. Further, the EOBI paid the evaluator Rs44 million,” states the FIA report.
According to the evaluator, his firm had informed the EOBI that there had been no sale and purchase of property in the area where the Institution wanted to purchase land from the DHA.
The DHA administrator has admitted that the EOBI had not been given possession of land, states the FIA report. About the title of the land, he said that under the DHA rules the ownership always remained with the authority.
The report also points out that the EOBI purchased plots from the DHA in a disputed area as some local residents alleged that the DHA never purchased the land from the Capital Development Authority (CDA).
The report further points out that the EOBI purchased Crown Plaza in F-7 Markaz and paid Rs1.02 billion on October 16, 2012. EOBI officials received Rs150 million in kickbacks in the deal, the report alleges. In his statement, the seller, Abdul Qayum, confessed to the payment of kickbacks to EOBI officials. The deal was finalised by Wahid Khursheed, Adviser/Director General (Investment) EOBI.
According to the report, the EOBI didn’t seek prior permission from its Board of Trustees for the deal.
The report also highlights the deal for the purchase of a one acre plot of land in Kallar Kahar, Chakwal, from Maqsoodul Hassan Minhas, brother of Raja Azeem, who is the son-in-law of former premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. The land was purchased at Rs200,000 per marla, while its market value was Rs30,000 marla.
The EOBI also bought 1.9 kanals of land on Talagang Road, Chakwal, from Raja Sanaul Haq, also a brother of Raja Azeem, for Rs15,50,000 per marla while its market price was Rs60,000 per marla. Interestingly, the seller had demanded Rs12,00,000 per marla, reveals the FIA report.
It adds that the amount mentioned in the registered sale deed is less than the amount paid by the EOBI.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2013.
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