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Pakistan

Web Desk
May 24, 2021

Punjab’s Anti-Corruption Establishment starts investigating R3 scam

Web Desk
Mon, May 24, 2021

Punjab’s Anti-Corruption Establishment said on Monday that it has started investigating the Rawalpindi Ring Road (R3) project scam.

A spokesperson of the department said that the Director-General Anti-Corruption Mohammad Gohar has named a team that includes legal, technical, and economic experts.

“The team has launched a probe into the scandal and after a thorough investigation, all the facts of the project will be made public,” said the spokesperson.

Rawalpindi Ring Road scam made Rs130b in property deals in four years: investigators

The Rawalpindi Ring Road has taken the political circles in Pakistan by storm. The allegations have been so damning that Zulfi Bukhari, whose name was referenced in the report, has also resigned as SAPM.

A recent report showed an initial inquiry into the scam found that over Rs130 billion have been made in property deals as part of the Rawalpindi Ring Road project since its conception in 2017.

According to the new official findings, 18 politically connected individuals and 34 influential builders and property tycoons have acquired around 64,000 kanals of land in different deals within the limits of the Rawalpindi/Attock loop, Paswal Zigzag, GT Road and Islamabad Margalla Avenue, The News had reported.

The value of this land was expected to multiply once work on the Rawalpindi Ring Road project started.

An examination of official records, files and initial findings of investigators linked with the project found that these 52 individuals, either directly or through frontmen, collectively acquired over 63,828 kanals of land by paying an estimated Rs31 billion to the real owners. Some portions of the lands were allegedly grabbed in the last four years.

Societies and property tycoons sold around 0.32 million files/pledges of plots by generating an estimated Rs131 billion from clients, officials revealed.

According to the publication's news report, dealers have also yet to pay tax against 67% of the land deals, which remains at Rs1.7 billion. Around 60% of societies and builders did not meet the basic registration criteria.

Hundreds of thousands of land registrations, however, were being sold to bulk purchasing investors and potential buyers on 10% to 30% down payments in the market, revealed off-the-record discussion/interviews with around a dozen senior officials of the RDA, CDA and Attock/Rawalpindi/ICT administration.

Were government officials involved in the Rawalpindi Ring Road property deals?

The possible involvement of more than a dozen government officials, including ministers, special assistants to the prime minister, MNAs, senators and MPAs, with these property deals was reviewed by the investigators too.

They could have been either direct or indirect beneficiaries of the newly-planned route had the project been executed.

"Some of them either collectively inherited over 17,110 kanals of land or recently purchased a major chunk of land, which, apparently, in one way or the other was close to the jurisdictions of the Rawalpindi Ring Road. Some of them had already ancestral lands in the concerned area while others appeared on the scene after the announcement of the Rawalpindi Ring Road project," the publication reported.

As many as 18 housing societies and builders purchased over 11,300 kanals land in nine mauzas, the investigation found. These were in Moorat, Jungle, Raman, Ganda, Daulat Pur, Mehlu, Bango, Kanial and Qutbal and directly or indirectly connected to the Attock Loop, according to the investigation.

These builders and property tycoons paid around Rs1 billion to the original owners of the land but they themselves generated over Rs11 billion from clients by hiking the land price in the last two years.

"Some 10 housing societies acquired over 24,540 kanals of land. Real estate players, thus, paid Rs3 billion to landowners by generating around Rs50 billion after selling files in the past four years, according to preliminary findings," the publication reported, adding that six housing societies acquired 10,871 kanals of land and made around Rs35 billion near the New Islamabad International Airport, GT Road, Paswal Zigzag and Margalla Avenue. As many as 19 of the total 34 housing societies and construction companies were not registered even, revealed investigation.

Almost 60% of societies and builders are selling ownership titles of land in bulk through advertisements by showing the proximity of the society with the Rawalpindi Ring Road project, the investigation found.

Some 309 individuals and 11 firms have gone into litigation against these real estate tycoons while NAB started an inquiry against seven housing societies and 15 individuals. Some 31 government officials and around a dozen retired officers of armed forces were also allegedly abetting those involved in these land dealings as well as in framing the desired Rawalpindi Ring Road alignments.

FIA, NAB, ACE to probe influential persons involved in Rawalpindi Ring Road scam

Federal Investigation Agency, National Accountability Bureau and Punjab ACE investigators will look at the influential persons who directly or indirectly got the new Rawalpindi Ring Road project alignment approved for favourable road links.

The new roads links could possibly benefit 34 plots of a former government influential and his family in Sectors C-15/16, Islamabad, and in one way or the other to 1,310 kanals land situated in the surroundings of Attock, investigators told Geo News.

The new alignment can possibly benefit a former PML-N senator who owns over 4,700 kanals in Fatehjang, Attock and Mauza Rajar, according to official findings. Meanwhile, two PPP MNAs own 2,460 kanals of land in Sangani, Islamabad, which is apparently a proposed jurisdiction of the Rawalpindi Ring Road project.

Two federal ministers allegedly owned over 1,531 kanals of land in Fatehjang and some parts of the Attock border linked to the project's routes, revealed the investigation. A son of a federal minister also allegedly has shares in a private housing society that finds its feet in the jurisdiction of the project in Attock, claimed investigators.

Another PML-N MNA owned over 1,100 kanals of land near the road in Fatehjang and other parts of district Attock, investigators found, while two PML-N MPAs own over 1,400 kanals of land in Attock, close to the Rawalpindi Ring Road routes.

A PTI MNA and two PTI MPAs were also part of the group.

Six PTI MPAs allegedly owned hundreds of kanals land in the village of Qazi, 4,000 kanals in Gaggan Tehsil Jand Attock, over 600 kanals of land in Sector B-17, Islamabad, and Paswal and six kanals of land in Sector E-13 in Islamabad, along with multiple proposed link roads associated with the Rawalpindi Ring Road, according to the investigation.