EOBI scam: DHA accounts frozen
The Supreme Court has frozen the bank accounts of Defence Housing Authority (DHA) in twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad for its failure to deposit Rs 22 billion with the Registrar office in pursuance of the earlier court orders over alleged corruption of Rs 40 billion in the Employees' Old-Age Benefit Institution (EOBI).
Copyright Business Recorder, 2013
Heading a 3-judge bench, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry resumed the hearing of a suo motu notice on the scam, issuing directives to the counsel for DHA Ahmer Bilal Soofi to submit bank accounts, statements, details of assets and balance sheet of his client's business with the Registrar's office on Friday. Soofi told this correspondent that all the required documents were submitted with the Registrar's office. The bench also directed the DHA authorities to submit details of daily deposited amount in bank accounts in the apex court and barred the Authority from opening any new bank account until deposited Rs 22 billion with the Registrar's office.
On July 17, the Court had granted two days to the DHA to deposit Rs 22 billion with the Registrar's office, otherwise its accounts would be frozen. The court had further ordered six individuals involved in the scam to deposit the amount of Rs 7,087 million, which had been received from EOBI for the purchase of property in Lahore in a non-transparent way.
At the outset of hearing, Soofi told the bench that DHA had received Rs 12 billion from EOBI which were given to Bahria Private Limited for construction and development cost and about Rs 9 billion were given to bank to clear liabilities of DHA.
Soofi further apprised the bench that development work on 70 to 80 percent of plots had been completed in the DHA, saying his client wrote a letter to EOBI during January 2013 to take possession of the plots. A member of the bench, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, said EOBI entered into a joint venture with Bahria Private Limited, Habib Rafique and DHA and admonished the Board members of DHA, saying how innocent they were to allow their investment and land to be grabbed by someone else.
During proceedings, Additional Director General Immigration Azam Khan submitted a preliminary report in response to court's orders, saying that EOBI purchased 321 kanals of land from DHA on January 1, 2012 against the payment of Rs 15.47 billion. He apprised the bench that allotment letters of the plots were made in the name of the EOBI, adding that as many as 250 plots, measuring 8 marlas each were also purchased at Islamabad Express way site.
Azim Khan informed the bench that the inquiry into purchase of Crown Plaza in F-7 Sector, Islamabad was under process; however, he said that apparently EOBI failed to observe PEPRA Rules in the deal of Crown Plaza. Azam Khan submitted that the property owned by the former Chairman EOBI Zafar Iqbal Gondal had been forfeited, which included; 537 kanal of land at Mandi Bahuddin, a farmhouse measuring 4 kanal and 8 marlas at Banigala Islamabad and a plot measuring 356 sqft in G-11 Islamabad.
He said an FIR was also registered against those who managed to purchase a Land Cruiser from the EOBI fund. Giving details of properties purchased in Lahore by EOBI, Azam Khan said that property worth Rs 1.87 billion was purchased in the Eden Housing Society Faisalabad and Lahore; Rs 2.60 billion was invested in River Edge Housing Society Lahore; Rs 1.15 billion was paid to Pak Arab Housing Society Lahore and EOBI invested Rs 1.43 billion in Mughal Engineering Housing Society Lahore.
Additional Director General Immigration further told the bench that EOBI also invested in Karachi, saying two plots were purchased at various locations of the metropolitan city but plots' title were not cleared. He claimed that three persons were taken into custody after registration of an FIR there, adding that another inquiry relating to the current matter was under process in Sukkur. He submitted that the names of those involved on the scam were put in the Exist Control List.
Appreciating the efforts of FIA, the Chief Justice observed that influential people seemed to be involved in the scam, but they cannot influence the apex court. He said officials of the Agency were supposed to show tangible results through probing the scam in a professional way in order to save the poor people's investment.
During proceedings, the counsel for Eden Housing Society submitted that his client was ready to give a cheque equal to the amount received from the EOBI. The bench said if other housing societies failed to deposit the amount that they had from the EOBI, their accounts would also be frozen. The hearing of case was adjourned till July 26.