–Court seeks report from NAB Lahore DG after former railways minister complains of poor facilities in lockup
LAHORE: An accountability court on Wednesday handed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Salman Rafique to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on 10-day physical remand in Paragon City Housing scam case.
The anti-graft body, represented by prosecutor Waris Ali Janjua, produced Saad and Salman before Judge Syed Najamul Hasan seeking 15-day remand.
The bureau had arrested the Khawaja brothers after the Lahore High Court (LHC) dismissed their application seeking pre-arrest bail in the housing scam.
“Khawaja Saad Rafique opened a company in his and his wife’s name,” NAB’s prosecutor informed the court as proceedings began. “Then, the Executive Builders’ name was changed to Paragon,” he added.
“Paragon Housing Society is illegal; an approval for its construction was not obtained. Ninety people from whom the Khawaja brothers took money but did not allot plots to, have contacted NAB. They also took a lot of commission from Executive Builders’ accounts. We have to conduct an inquiry,” he further argued.
The prosecutor informed the court that the brothers were benamidar owners of the housing society and sought their physical remand. He said that Shahid Butt and Qaisar Amin Butt, co-accused in the scam, had admitted that Khawaja brothers were real owners of the housing society.
He alleged that both brothers exchanged land with the society, which was a dubious matter. He also submitted that Khawaja brothers received Rs100 million and they failed to give justification for it.
The NAB prosecutor produced the statement of a certain Shahid Butt who, it said, is a partner of a block in the Paragon scheme and has admitted that Saad used to attend every meeting of the scheme’s administrators.
At this, the accountability judge instructed the NAB official to present a handwritten statement from Butt, adding that “this seems as if it was written by NAB itself”.
“Do not put [words] in Shahid Butt’s mouth,” the court warned.
The prosecutor then informed the court of a statement provided by Qaiser Amin Butt who, it said, has claimed that “the Khawaja brothers are co-owners of the Paragon scheme and that Nadim Zia is their frontman.”
However, Khawaja brothers’ counsel Amjad Pervaiz opposed the remand plea and submitted that all allegations against his clients were baseless. He said that the duo had no link to Paragon and they have been cooperating with the NAB investigators.
“Yes, indeed, they have been appearing before NAB and recording their statements,” the prosecutor answered when the judge asked if the duo had cooperated over the investigation.
In response, the brothers’ legal representative said that they had presented themselves before NAB six times.
He added that cases were also created against the former railways minister three times during the reign of former president Pervez Musharraf but the anti-graft body failed to produce sufficient evidence.
“Political cases were created against the brothers then, and political cases are being created against them now,” he added. “The project was built 15 years ago but not a single document has been found that proves that they are the owners,” he further argued.
‘LACK OF FACILITIES’:
During the hearing, Saad Rafique complained about the lack of facilities in the NAB custody.
“My home meals have been stopped, I did not take my breakfast this morning because the [food served] was not of the quality that it could be eaten,” Saad informed his lawyer about the conditions in lock-up.
“There is no door bolt in the washroom [but] they have placed cameras there,” he added.
The court announced the verdict shortly after reserving it while directing the NAB authorities to provide necessary facilities to the brothers. It also sought a report from the NAB director general in this regard.
Meanwhile, strict security arrangements were made inside and outside the court premises on this occasion besides deployment of anti-riot force.
Police took precautionary measures and placed barbed wires on roads leading to the court in order to stop PML-N workers, who had gathered to protest. Similarly, roads in the area were also blocked for traffic.