LAHORE: An accountability court in Lahore granted the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) 10-day physical remand of PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Salman Rafique in the Paragon Housing scam case.
NAB, which had taken the siblings into custody a day earlier following the rejection of their petition to obtain pre-arrest bail, had sought 15-day remand of the two. The court instead granted 10-day remand with instructions to produce both the accused before the court on December 22.
Ahead of the hearing, roads around the accountability court were closed for normal traffic, while police also placed barbed wires around the judicial complex in order to keep PML-N workers at bay.
After the hearing began, NAB’s Special Prosecutor Waris Ali Janjua apprised accountability court judge Justice Syed Najamul Hasan of its accusations against Saad and his brother.
“Khawaja Saad Rafique opened a company in his and his wife’s name,” he said. “Then, Executive Builders’ name was changed to Paragon.”
“Paragon Housing Society is illegal; an approval for its construction was not obtained,” the NAB official alleged. “Ninety people from whom the Khawaja brothers took money but did not allot plots to have contacted NAB. They also took a lot of commission from Executive Builders’ accounts. We have to conduct an inquiry.”
When the judge asked if the Khawaja brothers had been cooperating with NAB’s investigation, the prosecutor replied in the affirmative. “Yes, indeed, they have been appearing before NAB and recording their statements,” Janjua said.
The NAB prosecutor produced the statement of a certain Shahid Butt who, it said, is a partner of a block in the Paragon scheme and has admitted that Saad used to attend every meeting of scheme’s administrators.
At this, the accountability judge instructed the NAB official to present a handwritten statement from Butt, adding that “this seems as if it was written by NAB itself.”
“Do not put [words] in Shahid Butt’s mouth,” the court warned.
The prosecutor then informed the court of a statement provided by one Qaiser Amin Butt who, it said, has claimed that “the Khawaja brothers are co-owners of the Paragon scheme and that Nadim Zia is their frontman.”
Amjad Pervez, the Khawaja brothers’ counsel, told the court that their clients have been cooperating fully with NAB and have presented themselves before the watchdog six times.
The defence counsel said that cases of alleged corruption were also created against Saad during Pervez Musharraf’s era but that after three years, NAB did not find anything.
“Political cases were created against the brothers then, and political cases are being created against them now,” Pervez said.
He denied that the siblings had anything to do with the Paragon housing scheme, adding that “the project was built 15 years ago but not a single document has been found that proves that they they are the owners.”
Saad unhappy with NAB lock-up conditions
Saad, during a conversation with his counsel in courtroom today, complained of conditions in the NAB lock-up, where he spent the previous night.
“My home-cooked meals have been stopped,” the former Railways minister said. “There is no door bolt in the washroom [although] they have removed cameras from there.
“I did not take my breakfast this morning because the [food served] was not of the quality that it could be eaten.”
The accountability judge expressed his anger at NAB over Saad’s complaint, saying: “This should not happen even if someone is a convict. NAB should commit in writing that it will place door bolts in its washrooms.
“Investigate, but not by unnatural means,” the judge further instructed the bureau’s representatives.