Court grants 10-day physical remand of Saad, Salman Rafique to NAB

* Saad Rafique complains of 'bad food' served to him in jail

LAHORE: An accountability court in Lahore granted the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) a 10-day physical remand of Pakistan Muslim Leage-Nawaz (PML-N) Leader Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Khawaja Salman Rafique in Paragon Housing scam case on Wednesday.

Ahead of the hearing, roads around the accountability court were closed for normal traffic, while police also placed barbed wires on roads leading to the judicial complex, in order to keep PML-N workers at bay.

After the hearing began, NAB Special Prosecutor Waris Ali Janjua apprised accountability court judge Syed Najamul Hassan of its accusations against Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother.

“Saad Rafique opened a company in his and his wife’s name,” he said.

“Then, the 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,” Waris Ali Janjua said.

The NAB prosecutor produced the statement of a certain Shahid Butt who, it said, is a partner of a block in Paragon scheme and has admitted that Saad used to attend every meeting of the housing scheme.

At this, the accountability judge instructed the NAB official to present a handwritten statement of Butt’s, 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 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 front man”.

Amjad Pervez, the Khawaja brothers’ counsel, meanwhile, told the court that their clients have been cooperating fully with NAB and presented themselves before the watchdog six times.

The defense counsel said that cases of alleged corruption were also created against Saad during former president 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 Musharraf said.

He denied that siblings have 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 are the owners”.

On Tuesday, Saad and his sibling were taken into custody by the corruption watchdog for their alleged involvement in the Paragon Housing Society scam case.

The arrests were made after the siblings’ attempt to secure pre-arrest bail was turned down by the Lahore High Court.

Saad, during a conversation with his counsel in the courtroom, complained of conditions in NAB lock-up, where he spent the previous night.

“My home 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.”

Published in Daily Times, December 13th 2018.