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June 19, 2019

Paragon Housing scam case: LHC dismisses bail petitions of Khwaja brothers

National

June 19, 2019

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday dismissed post arrest bail petitions of PML-N former minister for Railways Khwaja Saad Rafique and his brother Khwaja Salman Rafique in the Paragon Housing scam case.

Both brothers are chief suspects in a corruption reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) earlier this year. A two-member bench headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi announced verdict on Tuesday after both sides concluded their arguments. “The reasons for rejection of bail pleas will be disclosed in the detailed verdict”, the verdict said.

At the outset of the hearing, Khwaja brothers’ counsel informed the court that his clients had nothing to do with the Paragon Housing scam. He questioned the veracity of Qaiser Ameen Butt’s statement, an approver in the case, saying his statement was recorded twice before the magistrate. “The NAB first rejected Qaiser’s statement and later recorded his statement of its choice”, Khwaja brothers’ counsel alleged.

To a court’s query, the counsel replied that the first statement was rejected and second was recorded in line with the directions of the chairman NAB. He added that it was unprecedented that the confessional statement of an accused was got recorded twice before a magisterial court. An inquiry against his clients on accusations of assets beyond means was carried out for three years and closed later, he said. He pointed out that Qaisar Amin Butt and Nadeem Zia were not business partners but friends of Khwaja brothers.

Responding to defence arguments, the NAB counsel told the court that the anti-corruption watchdog had initiated an inquiry against both brothers for allegedly owning assets beyond known means.

However, the inquiry was closed in 2007 after the two brothers "won prize bonds". "How are prize bonds related to the inquiry?" Justice Najafi asked. The NAB prosecutor explained that the Khwaja brothers had argued that they acquired a windfall of Rs 49 million through a 'lucky' prize bond draw. Therefore, it could not be subsequently proven by prosecutors that the assets they owned had been acquired through dubious means.

The court rejected their bail pleas after hearing extended arguments from both sides. According to the NAB, Khwaja Saad Rafique in collusion with his wife Ghazala Saad Rafique Butt, brother Salman Rafique, Qaiser Amin Butt and Nadeem Zia had launched a housing project named Air Avenue which was later renamed as Paragon City (Pvt) Ltd.

The accused allegedly connived with Nadeem Zia and Qaiser Amin Butt to defraud several members of the society and misappropriated project funds for personal gains. The accused collected huge amounts in flagrant violation of directions from the Lahore Development Authority (LDA).

Besides, Saad Rafique acquired 40 kanals of land in his and his brother’s name, which he used to extend the project illegally and sold commercial plots worth billions of rupees. The NAB has accused the Khwaja brothers of wrongfully gaining approximately Rs 18.2 million from M/s Paragon City (pvt) Limited in their bank accounts. Both brothers are currently in judicial custody, languishing in Kot Lakhpat jail

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