LAHORE: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has unearthed a fraud worth more than Rs20 million involving seven accused who worked in connivance with National Highway Authority (NHA) officials as well as the registrar of Federal Ombudsman at the time, The Express Tribune has learnt.

The money received by the accused, which caused a significant loss to the national exchequer, was for the purchase of land that couldn’t actually be used – the land lies under the Ravi River. FIA investigations revealed that initially, the NHA had fixed the price of the non-existent land (acquired for the construction of the Lahore bypass) at Rs5.6 million. Later, however, NHA officials paid over Rs20 million to the beneficiaries on bogus property documents because of added interest. The hefty interest had to be paid due to a delay in payments.

The inquiry discovered that a man, identified as Muhammad Anwar, with the connivance of the registrar of the Federal Ombudsman at the time, Yasin Baig, issued more than two dozen notices to NHA officials for payment over the land in question.

The investigation also revealed that the land lying under the riverbed had earlier been recognised as such by NHA Tehsildar Tariq Baig, who pointed this out in a report. However, when Tariq went on leave, the accused in connivance with NHA officials prepared forged property documents which enabled the fraud. A case has been registered at the FIA ACC police station against the involved NHA officials, former registrar Yasin, and seven private persons.
The Punjab FIA director had entrusted this inquiry to FIA ACC Inspector Altaf Gohar Watto after receiving a complaint from one Muhammad Aslam.

The accused are Anwar along with six other beneficiaries including Rana Muhammad Saleem, Muhammad Iqbal, Mohsin Ali, Naik Muhammad, Mehraj Bibi and Shamshad Bibi. Accused NHA officials include Land Acquisition Collector Zubair Akhtar, former Maintenance Director Mian Abdul Rauf, Patwari Sajjad Hussain and former registrar Yasin.