LAHORE: An accountability court on Tuesday extended the physical remand of former Lahore Development Authority (LDA) director general Ahad Cheema, chief executive officer (CEO) of Bismillah Engineering Shahid Shafiq and two other accused by 14 days in the Ashiana Housing Scam.
According to reports, security at the court premises was beefed up before Ahad Cheema’s appearance in court. Lawyers, court officials had to undergo security checks. A heavy police contingent was present outside the judicial complex and courtroom.
Cheema was presented in court along with the four other accused for an extension in physical remand.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials informed the court that further investigation is required in the case, including forensic examination of Cheema’s laptop.
Former Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) chief Imtiaz Haider and Bilal Qidwai were also presented for an added 15-day physical remand.
During the hearing, counsel for NAB remarked that Ahad Cheema had a strong affiliation with Paragon’s Nadeem Zia and he should have been a part of the hearing.
The accountability court judge said that Zia was called in for investigation but refused to be a part of it.
NAB’s counsel further argued that the accused tried to conceal evidence and the data recovered from his laptop was encrypted and an expert was required for investigation.
The anti-graft watchdog also said that Cheema and company provided illegal contracts against the rules and regulations of Ashiana Housing Scheme.
After reserving its verdict, the court extended the remand for 14 days and directed NAB to produce the suspects on April 17.
On March 20, the Interior Ministry blacklisted Cheema from obtaining a passport and an accountability court approved an extension of his physical remand.
NAB is investigating allegations that Cheema, by misuse of authority and with criminal intent, awarded a contract of the Ashiana-e-Iqbal housing project of approximately Rs14 billion to Lahore Casa Developers — a joint-venture which was ineligible for the contract.
The NAB had launched an investigation against the management, officers, and officials of the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC), management and owners of Lahore Casa Developers, officers and officials of the LDA after the government cancelled the award of the Ashiana-e-Iqbal housing scheme to the successful bidder M/S Chaudhry Latif and Sons.
The award was given to M/S Lahore Casa Developers (JV) – a proxy group of M/S Paragon City (Pvt) Limited (which is stated to be developed by Railways Minister Saad Rafique) – hence causing a loss of millions of rupees to the exchequer.
Shafiq’s company was part of the joint venture Lahore Casa Developers that NAB has said was ineligible to receive the contract.