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National

September 6, 2018

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Grand Hyatt land lease scam: Pressure mounts on DG FIA to probe official for exonerating suspects

ISLAMABAD: Pressure is mounting on the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director General to probe the FIA official who exonerated all the suspects in the multi-billion-rupee Grand Hyatt Hotel controversy, after a divisional bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) recently upheld a decision to cancel the lease deed.

In 2017, a team of FIA Lahore registered a case of fraud, abuse of power and authority, forgery, criminal breach of trust, and impersonation or cheating against the suspects. They included former Capital Development Authority (CDA) chairman Kamran Lashari and other former CDA board members, as well as hotel contractor Abdul Hafeez Sheikh on charges .

The 2005 lease of CDA land for the construction of the Grand Hyatt caused a loss of Rs25 billion to national exchequer, the FIA found.

After the FIA registered the case, the CDA board cancelled the lease deed awarded to the contractor. The accused parties then petitioned the IHC, but it endorsed the CDA decision. The ruling of the single bench was upheld by the divisional bench.

After the FIA registered the case, the accused parties approached FIA DG Bashir Ahmed Memon and raised questions about the probe. The DG appointed Capt (retd) Muhammad Shoaib, the Project Director of the National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes, to conduct a fact-finding probe into the Lahore team's investigation. By that time, the FIA had already submitted the challan of the case in the court of law.

However, Shoaib continued the probe and concluded in his report earlier this year that the FIA inquiry had failed to substantiate the allegations leveled against the accused persons. The FIA DG forwarded the fact-finding report to the Attorney General of Pakistan in February 2018 for further perusal.

Approached after the recent IHC verdict, Memon told The News that he did not support the fact-finding report of Shoaib. “I personally know Shoaib, a very honest officer who enjoys good repute, but he can make mistakes being a human,” he said.

“Everybody sees documents according to their own understanding and one can differ from the other on certain matters as per his or her conclusion of the facts,” Memon said. The FIA chief said he would look into the issue to see if the officer had made any mistake in the report, intentionally or not. If it was proven that Shoaib had given any favour to the accused parties in return for material gains, he would face strict action.

To another question, Memon confirmed that the National Accountability Bureau has also taken up the Grand Hyatt Hotel case. Capt Shoaib told The News that he had prepared the report after going through all the facts. He said he stands by the findings of his report, irrespective of the IHC decision.

Talking to The News, Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary said he was not aware of the case because the new government had recently taken office. "At the moment, we all are just getting briefings about the affairs of respective ministries and departments," the minister said. 

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