M6 land scam probe arrests 3 Sindh Bank officials
Three Sindh Bank officials were arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Saturday night after a FIR was filed about a land scam for the M6 (Hyderabad-Sukkur) motorway.
On the complaint of National Highway Authority (NHA) general manager Parkash Lohano, the case was filed as FIR No. 10/22 under Sections 409, 419, 420, 468, 471, 477-A, and 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) read with Section 5(2) Act-II, 1947 PCA.
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The complainant brought up the report of a fact-finding committee set up by the Sindh government. This report was part of FIA’s case. Mr. Lohano said that the NHA, which is in charge of buying land, had given Rs3,618m to the deputy commissioner of Naushahro Feroze to buy about 1,500 acres of land in the district for the M6 project.
He said that it was said that some amounts were paid out with one check without announcing the award, which was required by Section 11 of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894. Under this law, the award had to be announced in front of the landowners and the acquisition agency.
Naushahro Feroze DC is at the centre of a Rs3 billion fraud; the NHA general manager has filed a complaint with the FIA to help with the investigation.
Mr. Lohano said that Naushahro Feroz DC put the money in the Sindh Bank instead of the Sindh Treasury Accounts, which was what the NHA had suggested.
He said that when the Sindh government got a report of a suspicious transaction or the misuse of funds, it told a fact-finding committee.
The complainant brought up nine points from the committee’s report that show that transactions were done at the account office of Naushahro Feroz DC and that requests for cash were made ahead of time so that cheques could be sent out early.
BoR, NAB guidelines ignored
The points showed that some checks were written as “open” instead of “crossed,” and that people who lived abroad were given compensation for land that was taken from them on photocopied papers. The whole process of getting land did not follow the rules that the Board of Revenue (BoR) and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) put out every now and then. Affidavits were used to pay out huge amounts of money, and the signatures on them were different from those on the NICs of the people who got the money.
In the report, it was said that compensation was given for a simple power of attorney. DC signed all the documents without knowing who the tapedar or any other tax official was. The heirs of a landowner who had died were given money based on simple affidavits. The award under Section 11 was made without telling the acquiring agency what land would be bought and how many surveys would be done.
Mr. Lohano also mentioned the fact-finding committee’s report, which said that the B Form, compliance with Sections 5, 7, and 8, notice issued under Section 9, award statement, accounts book, and payment register were all missing. He said that these facts showed that DC gave out money for buying land without meeting the requirements of LAA 1894, such as awarding the money, setting the price of the land to be bought, and figuring out the area to be bought.
The committee has suggested that the FIA and NAB be asked to open a criminal case to look into suspicious transactions, misuse of NHA funds, and putting the officers in question on an exit control list (ECL).
The complaint from Sindh Bank
During the FIR investigation, Sindh Bank’s senior executive vice president, Asad Ali Shah, also filed a complaint about the scam, which was added to the FIR. It said that preliminary findings of the Naushahro Feroze case showed that there had been illegal cash payments, cheating, forgery, fraud, misappropriation, embezzlement, or tampering with documents in the account of land acquirer (A/c No. 01051635061000) for land acquisition in Naushahro Feroze at the branch, which could cost the national exchequer Rs2.52bn.
The bank representative’s complaint said that the branch manager Mukhtiar Ali Chandio, the branch operation manager Atta Hussain Sahito, and the cash officer Zeeshan Ali Larik should be arrested. An FIA source said, “These three Sindh Bank employees have been arrested.” DC Nausharo Feroze already ran away.
The FIR said that bank employees’ statements were taken down as part of the investigation. They found out that several checks written in the names of different beneficiaries were cashed or passed without biometric verification, and that fake and fabricated biometric verification reports were made to cover up this illegal activity.
What DC did
The FIR said that DC Tashfeen Alam, who had gone abroad, did not answer the call of the land-acquiring agency (NHA) when hearing claimants and making awards, which was against the law and a violation of the LAA. So, it seemed like the LAO/DC and bank officials worked together to steal money from the federal government or use it for other purposes.
Officials who asked to remain anonymous said that a forensic investigation would be needed to figure out what happened with the Naushahro Feroze M6 land scam. “It’s all a technical matter,” said a Karachi-based official. He said that the Sindh government’s committee that looked into the “award” found that it had some problems. “More than one check was sent to a supposed beneficiary/landowner,” he said.
Another source said, based on comments from NHA officials, that none of the NHA’s representatives were called to help buy land in Naushahro Feroze. “NHA, as an agency that buys land, can object to how the cost of land is set through the LAA procedure,” he said. He also said that different kinds of land were bought for each project under the LAA, 1894, such as land with orchards, standing crops, forestation, or any kind of building. “For each of these types of land, there should be a separate committee made up of experts from the relevant department, such as forest, agriculture, etc., so that the real cost can be determined or checked based on the type of land. “There is no such committee,” he said. He said that since Naushahro Feroze DC had left the country, everything was too clear.