LAHORE - A division bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday dismissed the bail petitions filed by PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Khawaja Salman Rafique in Paragon City scam.

The decision came days after the pre-arrest bail petition of Hamza Shehbaz, the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly was dismissed by a division bench of the Lahore High Court in the assets beyond means and Ramzan Sugar Mills cases.

The division bench consisting of Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem rejected the post-arrest bail petitions filed by the former railways minister and the former Punjab health minister.

A the outset of the proceedings, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Prosecutor Chaudhry Khaliquz Zaman told the court that Paragon City director and business partner of petitioners Qaisar Amin Butt had become an approver in the case. He said the petitioners were the owners of the scheme and NAB initiated an inquiry against the PML-N leaders the charges of having assets beyond known means but it was closed in 2007 after they had won prize bonds.

Detainees won Rs49m thru prize bonds in 2017, court told

Justice Najafi questioned then how the prize bonds had been related to the inquiry. The NAB officials elaborated that the Khawaja brothers had won Rs49 million through prize bonds thus it could not be proved that the Khawaja brothers owned assets beyond means.

He added that that Paragon City scheme was an illegal society and it was temporarily approved by the Town Municipal Administration (TMA) but the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) had rejected an application of the Paragon City for the purpose.

People were defrauded as the plots were sold to them only on maps, he further said. Initially, Paragon consisted of 1,000-kanal land but it was illegally extended to 7,000 kanals, the court was told.

The bench then asked if the Paragon City was an illegal society what action had been taken by the Lahore Development Authority (LDA).

The NAB official replied that one of the brothers was then minister for railways and the other was Punjab health minister, and said, “How could the LDA have taken action against such influential persons?

The NAB prosecutor submitted that Khawaja brother’s post-arrest bail petitions be dismissed.

On the other side, the PML-N leaders’ counsel argued that his clients did not have any link with the housing scheme while Qaisar Amin Butt and Nadeem Zia were not partners rather their friends. He said that the statement of Qaisar Amin Butt was recorded twice in an unprecedented way.

Earlier, NAB rejected the statement of Qaisar Amin Butt and then got another statement recorded as per their choice, the counsel said. He maintained that the first statement given by Butt was not in accordance with the choice of the NAB authorities therefore the second statement was recorded. He said that his clients faced an assets beyond means inquiry for three years. Refuting the NAB cliam, he said the inquiry against his client was not closed because of prize bonds. He pleaded with the bench for granting bail to the petitioners in the case.

After hearing arguments from both the parties, the bench reserved its verdict for a short period and then rejected the bail petitions of the PML-N leaders.

On Dec 11, 2018, they were arrested after an LHC division bench had dismissed their pre-arrest bail petitions.

The NAB had filed a reference in an accountability court against them in which other accused are Nadeem Zia, Umar Zia and Farhan Ali.

The PML-N leaders, through their “benamidars” and with the abetment of Qaiser Amin Butt, who is also former MPA, and Nadeem Zia set up a project in the name of Air Avenue, says the reference. The project was afterwards converted into a new housing project namely Paragon City (Pvt) Ltd. As per the NAB, it was an illegal society and not approved by the LDA.

Khawaja Saad and Khawaja Salman are also accused of receiving monetary benefits of Rs58 million and Rs39 million respectively from the society through proxy firms under the grab of consultancy services.