As part of its ongoing drive against economic terrorism, the National Accountability Bureau (Nab) has unearthed fraud worth billions of rupees and arrested five top officials of the Lines Area Redevelopment Project (Larp).
The Larp officers held on Monday include deputy director Fareed Naseem, additional director Atta Abbas, additional director Rashid Hussain, director Waseem Iqbal and deputy director Shahid Umar. Their arrests were made at Larp's office in Lines Area.
Nab Karachi's spokesperson told The Express Tribune that the arrests were made after receiving several complaints. "We had been receiving complaints against them for the past few months," he explained, adding that they have all the evidence. "We also raided their office about three months ago and collected the data."
According to him, Larp officials have been arrested over land manipulation worth billions of rupees. "They were involved in land grabbing of over 1,200 plots, worth Rs4.5 billion, through 'china cutting'," he said.
The spokesperson explained that 'china-cutting' allowed them to bypass the auction, which was otherwise mandatory as per the law. The grabbed land was allotted to a builder and the land mafia at throwaway prices upon payments of bribes, he added. "The accused persons have amassed huge assets for themselves through corruption," he said. "Interrogation from these accused persons will help reveal the names of their accomplices."
A former official at Larp explained how the scam worked. A plot of let's say 1,000 square-yards, which is supposed to be auctioned at a certain price, would be split into smaller plots by these officials and then sold to several people for a much lesser price. Later, the smaller plots would be combined back into one and then sold to a builder for a much higher price, allowing the middlemen to make a significant profit.
Apparently, it was residents of Lines Area who complained to Nab about these alleged land grabbers and urged them to take action. This was the second major move by Nab Karachi in less than two weeks. Earlier, a Nab team arrested the secretary for the excise and taxation department, Badar Jamil Mandhro, and the director of the anti-corruption department, Khadim Hussain Channa, for making illegal appointments in the minorities department. These officers were arrested on June 4 and are in custody of Nab after they were sent on a 14-day remand by the Nab court.
Larp was planned by Karachi Development Authority (KDA) in 1973 but was given autonomous status in 1980. It is now a project of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation with the Sindh governor as its chairperson.
"Corruption was on the rise since this project was launched but these officials, in particular, have been busy in corruption for the last 15 years at least," pointed out Senator Tanvirul Haq Thanvi, a long-time resident of Lines Area, as he spoke to The Express Tribune.
"Officials from the other departments are also involved in the grabbing of this land," he said, adding that the land mafia gave the perception of the area as a 'no-go' one which is why no one had the courage to pay it a visit. "Due to fear, no one from any department would come inside and these officials took advantage of this and continued to sell plots by 'china-cutting'," he claimed. Besides the 45-square-yard residential plots, these officials were also involved in fraud involving commercial plots.
Meanwhile, a Nab officer hinted that officials from the other departments, such as the KDA and the Sindh Building Control Authority, are also likely to be arrested in similar cases of corruption involving the issuance of NOCs and other legal documentation.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2015.