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Land scam: Real estate tycoon, aides may see names on ECL

Bahria Town Chairman Malik Riaz and son have gone underground after being accused in a major land fraud.

LAHORE: The Punjab government has requested the interior ministry to place the names of real estate tycoon and Chairman of Bahria Town property Malik Riaz, along with his son Ahmed Ali Riaz, on the Exit Control List. The decision followed the revelation that both have been absconders in a case of property fraud in Rawalpindi, The Express Tribune has learnt.

Anti Corruption Establishment Director General (ACE DG) Abid Javed sent the request to the Punjab department in light of the concern that both of the accused may flee abroad to avoid arrests and judicial action in the land scam case.

According to details, ACE Rawalpindi registered an FIR against five people on the charges of corruption and fraudulent transfer of land to the real estate developer, his son and four others. The five people nominated in the criminal case as the prime accused were identified as former land revenue official Muhammad Razwan, Muhammad Hussain Gardawar, Chaudhary Muhammad Ashfaq, Malik Tanveer and Milad Bibi . A charge sheet was filed against the aforementioned in court by the ACE assistant director after conducting an investigation.

During the trial, Justice Ijaz Ahmed of the Lahore High Court Rawalpindi bench directed the ACE to carry out a renewed investigation against those who were beneficiaries in the land transaction. The scam involved carrying out fake mutations (land divisions) in order to establish a housing colony on the land.

During the re-investigation, it was discovered that a total of 18 fake mutations had taken place- these were under the names of the real estate developer, his son, another employee of Bahria Town, and three others. Bahria Town General Manager Lt Col (Retd) Akhtar Saeed and three others helped the accused to acquire the mutations and fake ownership of the land by counterfeiting official land records.

The accused sold land in Malikpur Azizwal Tehsil measuring 11,208 acres with the connivance of the land records official, Muhammad Razwan. The deal deprived the original landowners of billions of rupees by faking the land mutation record. Both the sale and purchase parties received huge financial kickbacks from the business deal.

During the earlier investigation, the general manager maintained that Bahria Town had paid Rs50 million to the landowners, who turned out to be phony. Later, it was discovered that the land was actually worth billions while the real estate development company had offered massive bribes to the revenue officials involved. After taking the bribe, the officials forged the revenue record and the property was transferred to the new purchasers, the owners of Bahria Town and their associates.

It was also learnt that during the course of the investigation, the real estate developer offered a cheaper construction cost to the Punjab government for the Ashiana Housing Scheme in Lahore, in an attempt to have the case against him and his associates dropped. The construction contract was then awarded to Bahria Town alone without inviting open tenders, in violation of the law. The Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) however, did not drop the case and ordered the developer’s arrest.

On October 12, the CJP, while hearing the bail application of the accused in the land scam case, inquired about the arrest of the real estate businessman and his son.

Responding to the CJP’s query, the ACE DG Abid Javed stated that of the 16 accused, seven had been arrested but the land magnate and his son had gone underground, avoiding arrest despite various raids.

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