The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to suspend further action against Bahria Town after its chairman, Malik Riaz, agreed in writing to deposit Rs5 billion with the court and desist from selling any of his or his wife’s properties.
The suspension will hold while the Supreme Court decides an appeal filed by Bahria Town against an illegal land allotment case in which a Supreme Court bench had ruled against it.
Last month, the apex court had ordered the additional registrar of the SC’s Karachi registry to open a special account to facilitate the deposit of outstanding dues against allotments through pay orders, demand drafts or cross-cheques.
Yesterday, Riaz had been summoned by the SC for questioning after it was discovered that Bahria Town had instead issued notices to people who have already been allotted plots, commercial buildings or build-up units to make payments to a new bank account set up by the housing society.
The chief justice had yesterday barred the housing society from collecting any payments, saying that the administration of Bahria Town Karachi had violated court orders by opening the separate bank account.
Riaz, in his written reply submitted today, assured the court that he would submit the Rs5bn amount required as surety by the court in 15 days and ensure that none of his or his family’s properties are sold in the meanwhile.
Upon receiving the assurance, the SC ordered NAB to suspend further action against Bahria Town, Riaz and his family till a five-member bench of the apex court decides the review petition filed by the property empire.
The review petition in question was filed by Bahria Town against three cases in which the apex court had found massive irregularities in land acquisition by the developer for its housing projects in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Murree.
The Supreme Court also allowed Bahria Town to receive money from investors in its new account while the review is completed. However, the court ordered that 20 per cent of the money received would have to be deposited in a separate account opened at the apex court.
The court also ordered Riaz’s wife’s property to be attached as surety and barred him from selling any of his own assets.
During the hearing, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar noted that the entire proceedings from yesterday were largely blacked out by the media.
“Are you this influential?” the CJP asked the real estate tycoon.
Instead, the property tycoon complained that he was being presented as a “don” by the media. At this, the CJP asked: “Have you not [acted as] a don, making and breaking governments?”
He also advised Riaz to refrain from “influencing governments” and remarked that “the days when governments would change at your whims are long gone”.
“What has been your role in the [recent] Senate elections?” the CJP asked the property tycoon, before dismissing the question himself saying he “already knew”.