RAWALPINDI: Days before the formation of a caretaker set-up, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has exonerated property tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain and his son Ali Riaz Malik from a four-year-old land fraud case.
The Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) had registered the case against Bahria Town and some officials of the Punjab revenue department on Nov 4, 2009, on the complaints of residents of some villages near Rawat. Malik Riaz, his son and others were accused of bribing revenue officials to get 1,401 kanals of ‘shamilat’, or community land, transferred to their names on fake documents.
The ACE conducted four inquiries into the matter. Initially, it exonerated Malik Riaz and his son, but later implicated both of them in the case after the Supreme Court, during hearing for bail of an accused on May 23, 2011, observed that the ACE had cleared the influential beneficiaries and booked the less influential persons in the case.
After the directives of the apex court, the ACE director general constituted a four-member team to investigate the case and it submitted its report to the court in Sept 2011, nominating Malik Riaz, Ali Riaz and 14 others as accused.
During the investigation, then governor Sardar Latif Khosa ordered suspension of the inquiry against the tycoon but the Punjab government refused to do so.
An Anti-Corruption Court (ACC) of Rawalpindi in October 2011 issued the arrest warrants of Malik Riaz and his son.
Malik Riaz filed a petition in the LHC for the quashing the inquiry but when the court summoned him he went to the Supreme Court and obtained interim bail.
Meanwhile, Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari took over as the National Accountability Bureau’s Chairman in October 2011 and in November issued a letter for transfer of the land fraud case from the ACE to NAB.
The Punjab ACE challenged the in LHC’s Rawalpindi bench.
It alleged that ten transfer of the case had been sought in order to exonerate Malik Riaz and his son through a ‘friendly prosecution’.
In July last year, the ACC ordered confiscation of the property of the two because they did not join the court proceedings despite repeated summons and issuance of warrants for their arrest.
A division bench of the LHC on Sept 19 set aside the NAB chief’s letter but referred the matter to the ACE court to decide the fate of the case.
The LHC observed that the ACE inquiry which had found Malik Riaz and his son guilty was valid because it had been conducted by its most senior officials.
In October last year, the ACC on request of NAB transferred the matter to the accountability court.
On Saturday, NAB Prosecutor Sardar Zulqarnain told the accountability court that after examining the available record and evidence the bureau had found that Malik Riaz and his son were not liable to be accused.
He told Dawn that the businessman and his son were victims of the land fraud but the ACE had wrongly implicated them in the case despite the fact that their names were not in the FIR.
According to him, the NAB prosecutor general had dropped the charges against Malik Riaz and his son while exercising powers vested in under Section 31-B.
Punjab Prosecutor General Sadaqat Ali Khan, who represented the ACE in the LHC, said when contacted that the NAB application for the withdrawal of the reference had proved the bureau’s intentions and a nexus between Admiral Bokhari and Malik Riaz.
“I am hopeful that the accountability judge will not accept the NAB’s application for withdrawal of the reference against Malik Riaz and his son because both of them are the prime accused in the land fraud case,” he said.
“Our petition against the transfer of the case is also pending in the Supreme Court and we will bring the recent development into the notice of the apex court,” he added.
Accountability Judge Chaudhry Abdul Haq adjourned the proceeding till Feb 16 when the NAB prosecutor and Malik Riaz’s counsel will argue on the application for dropping the reference.