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Property fraud: Punjab govt baulks at legal action in land scam

LAHORE: The Punjab government has shown reluctance in fighting a legal battle to retrieve property worth more than Rs1 billion, measuring 247 kanals, of the defunct National Industrial Cooperative Finance Corporation (NICFC), to compensate the affected families and mitigate the financial crisis faced by the government, The Express Tribune has learnt.

In 2004, the land in question was fraudulently sold to a private party by the management of Punjab Cooperative Board for Liquidation (PCBL), successor of the defunct NICFC, at the rate of Rs175, 000 per kanal despite a higher market value of Rs3.5 million per kanal in the same locality.

In October 2009, the PCBL chairman declared the sale deed null and void, observing that the deal was a mala fide one, and directions were given to retrieve the land from the land mafia in order to hold an open auction of the property to compensate the affected families.

However, PCBL was reluctant to take action against the party in question due to influential links and reports that certain officials from the chief minister’s secretariat were supporting the occupants, an official of PCBL requesting anonymity said. On the recommendation of PCBL, Anti Corruption Establishment registered a case under section 420/468, 109 Pakistan Penal Code and 5/2/47 Prevention of Corruption Act but no action was initiated against the accused.

In 1991 when the Cooperative Finance Corporations, working in the Punjab province, went bankrupt, the Punjab government introduced Punjab Undesirable Cooperative Societies Act 1993 and all the properties owned by these defunct corporations were shifted to PCBL. The Act authorised the sale of confiscated properties by PCBL to compensate the effected families and recover assets owned by the corporations.

According to a document, in 1989 House Building Finance Corporation (HBFC) signed a sale deed with NICFC for the purchase of 1457 kanals of land situated near Defence Housing Authority (DHA) in Lahore at the rate of Rs110, 000 per Kanal. Out of total land, 895 kanals were transferred to HBFC and the remaining land was shifted to PCBL after bankruptcy of NICFC. In 1999, an agreement was signed for the sale of the remaining land between NICFC and PCBL at the rate of Rs130, 000 per kanal. The HBFC failed to transfer the payment and secretly signed a sale deed with Sajid Changez Akhtar Khan for the sale of land measuring 339 kanals.

At that time, PCBL referred the cooperative scam to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) with the authority to initiate criminal proceedings against the delinquents but was not given a mandate to settle the issues with the sale of property and its price.

In 2004, former director NAB Punjab approved that land measuring 142 Kanal should be sold to Sajid Raja at the rate of Rs175, 000 per Kanal.
Later, some PCBL officials struck a deal with Sajid Raja for sale of 247 Kanals of land owned by PCBL without the approval of the board as the board only approved the sale to HBFC.

In October, 2009, PCBL chairman took notice of this issue and passed an order of annulment/cancellation of the pervious deal, declaring it to be a mala fide one. The chairman directed the management to retrieve the land from HBFC and any other party involved and to file a reference against the culprits of this fraud in Anti Corruption Establishment.

Meanwhile ACE registered a criminal case against ex-chairman PCBL Farooq Maan, ex-director NAB Punjab Qasim Abbas, Sajid Changez and HBFC representative Nadeem Khan.

Property fraud: Punjab govt baulks at legal action in land scam
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Property fraud: Punjab govt baulks at legal action in land scam
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