Supreme Court Verdict Expresses Concern Over Funds In Bahria Town Karachi Case

The Supreme Court has expressed concern over the unnecessary involvement of the Court in the remittance of funds that were detected by the UK's National Crime Agency

Supreme Court Verdict Expresses Concern Over Funds In Bahria Town Karachi Case

ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court of Pakistan has doubted that Malik Riaz’s millions of pounds detected by United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) were proceeds of criminal activity.

“It is unfortunate that without seeking permission of the Supreme Court, amounts were remitted into its account and the Supreme Court was unnecessarily involved with money detected by NCA, which probably were proceeds of criminal activity which was detected by NCA, seized and then frozen by AFOs,” observed Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa in a written order on different applications regarding Bahria Town Karachi (BTK).

The top court has directed that copy of the instant order be also sent to the NCA in the United Kingdom at its postal address.

The 13-page written order stated that the amount remitted from abroad from the account of eight individuals and entities was about GB Pounds 136 million and about US Dollars 44 million, which at the relevant time was converted to about 35 billion Pakistani rupees, adding that therefore notices were issued and only Mashreq Bank came forward and explained that it had sent an amount of GBP 19,999,984.27 from the account of Mubashara Ali Malik.

Apparently, the order stated, the NCA had applied for and obtained an ‘Account Freezing Order’ (AFO) from the Westminster Magistrate Court, and consequently Mubashara Ali Malik instructed Mashreq Bank to remit the frozen amount in her account to the Account of the Registrar Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The top court observed that the earlier consent order regarding payment of Rs. 460 billion by BKT in installments did not permit payments to be made from abroad. 

“The other persons/entities to whom notices were sent (except Mashreq Bank PSC) did not come forward to explain why monies were sent from their accounts to the account of the Supreme Court.”

“Apparently, these monies were used to offset Bahria Town’s stated liability, bringing to mind the idiom – robbing Peter to pay Paul. Therefore, the amount received from abroad and the markup earned thereon be remitted to the Government of Pakistan,” the top court observed.

“The Registrar of the Supreme Court and the National Bank of Pakistan shall do the needful in this regard.”

“The myth of the stated shortfall of land has been fully exposed by the Report and Bahria Town’s own filings in Court. Bahria Town undoubtedly knew that there was no shortfall in the land in its possession because it did not abandon the project and made no effort to have its applications, alleging shortfall, fixed for hearing in Court, nor filed a single application stating that the matter was urgent; such applications are filed daily under the Supreme Court Rules, 1980.”

“It appears that Bahria Town filed the applications, alleging shortfall in land, merely as a pretext to avoid paying the installments which Bahria Town had agreed to pay,”

“The applications were also used as a smokescreen to conceal the additional land in Bahria Town’s possession. Bahria Town’s conduct was an abuse of the process of the Court.”

“Even if the Report is disregarded, it would not help Bahria Town, because Bahria Town has not produced any evidence to show, let alone establish, that there was a shortfall in the land. Bahria Town also did not relinquish the excess/additional land in its possession and stopped paying the installments it had agreed to pay.”

“Certain issues, pertaining specifically to the allottees of Bahria Town and generally to allottees of all housing/commercial schemes launched by developers/builders were highlighted. These included: (a) allotments are not honoured, (b) duplicate allotments issued to more than one person and (c) allotments are arbitrarily cancelled by developers/builders. This raised the question of the law and/or official procedure which governs allotments issued by developers/builders, but to our disappointment we learnt that the public is left unprotected.”

Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa has further observed that it is painful when those who spend their lifelong savings to purchase a piece of land or an apartment are left at the complete mercy of developers/builders.

“Allottees suffer in the absence of requisite record keeping. Legislators and governments, who must want to protect the public and ensure proper record keepings will undoubtedly act to fill this lacunae.”

“In this age of information technology and computerization, record keeping can easily be undertaken with little capital outlay and every transaction can be recorded.”

“Developers and builders, including public sector authorities and societies, should be required to electronically, and automatically, transmit to a designated record keeper every transaction with complete particulars thereto, and to periodically provide a hard copy of the transactions.”

“In addition to protecting the public, this would also prevent double book-keeping by developers/builders and will document the economy. Double book-keeping, and the cash received by some developers/builders, facilitates the growth of the undocumented (black) economy, with its attendant ills and criminal activity.”

“On payment of a nominal fee the allottee could also monitor allotments and changes made thereto. The absence of record keeping encourages unscrupulous builders/developers to exploit allottees.”

“Litigation also ensures, adding to the cases already pending and it further overwhelms the courts. In the absence of record keeping of properties courts are faced with the difficult task to ascertain facts and then to determine the respective rights of parties. Such litigation would be avoided if there was proper record keeping of allotments and other transactions.”

“A record keeping mechanism could also be designed to prevent duplicate or multiple allotments in respect of the same plot of land or apartment, and to also prevent arbitrary cancellation of allotments.”

The top court observed that Bahria Town filed frivolous applications and the review petition and wasted the time of the Court.

The top court has imposed cost of an amount of one million rupees on Bahria Town and directed the company to pay to the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation, which is serving the people of Sindh.

“Bahria Town should in addition also reimburse to the Government of Sindh the amount of one million rupees regarding the amount spent on the survey conducted by the Survey of Pakistan,” the top court ruled.

The order has stated that an amount of 166.25 billion rupees, excluding applicable markup, should have by now been paid by Bahria Town, but only 24 billion, or precisely Rs. 24,266,037,716, is paid.

“An amount of about one billion rupees (Rs.1,093,636,493) was also deposited by the allottees in the account in the name of the Registrar of the Supreme Court.”

“Bahria Town retained the land and collected money from its allottees, but did not honour its commitment to make payment, nor apparently honoured its commitment to its allottees, as quite a few of them have come forward to complain. Bahria Town’s excuse to stop payment was that it did not get the agreed acreage of land, which was a false pretext.”

“Bahria Town has not deposited into the account of the Supreme Court the installments it had agreed to pay for a considerable time, and is in default of the consent order. Therefore, there is no reason to retain the amounts in the account, and these amounts constituting a portion of the cost of land which is of the people of Sindh should be remitted to the Government of Sindh; in the Non-Food Account No.I of the Government of Sindh, as requested by the learned AG.”

“It is clarified that the amounts received from abroad in foreign currency and the markup earned thereon is to be paid to the Government of Pakistan and the balance amount in the account in the name of the Registrar of the Supreme Court is to be paid to the Government of Sindh.”

“It is further clarified that if any amount has been incorrectly noted herein the record of the National Bank of Pakistan should be treated as correct.”

After the payments, the National Bank of Pakistan should close the account in the name of the Registrar of the Supreme Court maintained by it.

“The National Bank of Pakistan should submit a certified complete bank statement of the account and a separate certificate under the signature of the Bank Manager and co-signed by the President of the National Bank of Pakistan stating the amounts that were respectively remitted to the Government of Pakistan and the Government of Sindh and that the said account has been closed.”

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain