LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) moved one step further into the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing project scam investigation, as it arrested senior bureaucrat Fawad Hasan Fawad on Thursday over charges of corruption of billions of rupees and corrupt practices.
The News learnt on authority that NAB had already decided during an executive meeting that former principal secretary to ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif should be arrested. Sources in NAB said the authorities were informed that sufficient evidence about Fawad’s involvement in Rs14-billion scam had been gathered; therefore, the decision for his arrest was made. They said the top bureaucrat had also realisation of the gravity of the incriminating material available with the investigators and that was why he was avoiding appearance before NAB.
It was further learnt that Fawad appeared before the investigation team at around 10am, and failed to give satisfactory answers to questions about his involvement in various corrupt practices during the past years. Later on, he was arrested over 12 charges, including corruption of billions of rupees.
The NAB prosecution team would present Fawad Hasan before an accountability court on Friday (today) to obtain his physical remand.
As per details, the Bureau had launched an investigation into the scam in November 2016 after receiving a number of complaints regarding an illegal deal involving 3,000 kanals of land between the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC), owned by the government and different private companies.
As per the NAB investigation, Fawad Hasan is stated to be a close aide to the Sharif brothers. He worked as Secretary Implementation to Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif in 2013 and misused his authority. While misusing his position, he called chief executive officer (CEO) of the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) Tahir Khursheed and Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Project Director Ali Moazzam in his office and directed them to cancel the contract of Ashiana-i-Iqbal Project with M/s Chaudhry Latif & Sons.
The contract awarded to M/s Chaudhry Latif & Sons was legal, and in accordance with the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules, as the firm was the lowest qualified bidder. Moreover, the firm was working on the project for the last eight months when Fawad Hasan called both officials and asked them to cancel the contract.
The Bureau’s investigation further revealed that Fawad concealed the report of an independent inquiry committee, headed by Secretary Finance Tariq Bajwa, which declared the award of contract to Chaudhry Latif & Sons as per law and in accordance with the PPRA rules.
Due to illegal cancellation of contract with the Chaudhry Latif & Sons company, the government had to pay Rs5.9 million to the contractor as damages. The illegal cancellation of the contract delayed the project also, which resulted in cost escalation worth billions of rupees.
Not only this, the Bureau team, while investigating Fawad’s profile, found that he unlawfully worked for Bank Alfalah from Sept 2005 to July 2006. Fawad had sought permission from Secretary Establishment for working with Bank Alfalah, which was declined by the secretary, but he kept on working for the bank illegally.
The accused also worked for Sprint Energy, a subsidiary of JS Group, and prepared/ presented fake no-objection certificates (NOCs) for change of site of nine compressed natural gas (CNG) stations from one district to another.
Moreover, as per the NAB, Fawad purchased six mobile health units (mobile hospitals) on exorbitant rates while working as secretary health Punjab in 2010. The said purchase was made against the approval of the committee concerned, as the committee had approved purchase of five health units. The accused purchased each unit for Rs55 million, whereas the price of that unit was almost the same even after passage of almost six years (Rs58 million in 2016).
Meanwhile, NAB also started another inquiry against Fawad in which the top bureaucrat had been accused of constructing a multi-storeyed shopping mall in Rawalpindi having a real estate value of Rs12 billion.
Previously, NAB had also questioned former chief minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif for cancelling the contract to M/s Chaudhry Latif & Sons.
After three years of cancelling the legal contract of Ch Latif & Sons, in 2015, then Director General Lahore Development Authority (LDA) Ahad Khan Cheema awarded the same contract to M/s Lahore Casa Developers, said to be a proxy group for M/s Paragon City (Pvt) Limited, allegedly owned by Pakistan Muslim League-N leader Khwaja Saad Rafique.
M/s Casa Developers is a joint venture of three firms: M/s Bismillah Engineering Services Co, M/s SPARCO Construction Company and M/s China First Metallurgical Group Company Ltd.
The contractor failed to initiate the Ashiana-i-Iqbal project over the past three years, which caused loss of billions to the national kitty.
Meanwhile, speaking to the media outside the Harley Street Clinic in London, ousted premier Nawaz Sharif on Thursday said the arrest of Fawad Hasan Fawad was regrettable. He said he had heard the news of Fawad’s arrest and lamented it. He likened his (Fawad) arrest to his case and said those who remained close to the PML-N during the outgoing governments were being arrested, which was creating doubts about the impartiality of the election process.
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