What happened: Citizens have written to the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee regarding a real estate financial scam worth 3 billion rupees in Karachi’s DHA, named the Creek Marina project, which was announced in 2003 and has not been delivered to date. The victims have requested a new investigation into the fraud.

What is the case? In 2003, an agreement for the lease of land was signed between a Pakistani-Singaporean citizen, Dr. Shehzad Naseem, a Singaporean company named Man Hut Singapore Pvt Ltd, and DHA Karachi to make a sea-facing 92,000 sq ft luxury apartment, which was to be completed and marketed by the Singaporean company.

The company had committed to its customers that the luxury apartments would be completed and handed over to them by December 31st, 2009, but construction of the building did not start. The company, without doing any work, claimed more than 70% of the price from the customers, which was about 1.5 billion rupees. In 2005, DHA Karachi and the Singaporean company amended the agreement and decided that there would be two complexes of the project, but still, no work started on the construction.

On the 4th of June, 2009, another amendment was made between the Singaporean company and DHA, which said that the project would now be completed in 3 steps and delivered in 2011 and 2012. The DHA then filed a case in the Sindh High Court, which said that the Singaporean company and its Pakistani chapter had laundered the money of the customers of the Creek Marina project out of the Country. After years of legal battles, another amendment was made in the agreement, which said that the project would be fast-tracked now and that now DHA would own 15% of the net area, and the delivery dates were now given as 2022, 2023, and 2024. Till now, there has been no progress in the project.

Now comes the good part. They have written in their letter to the Public Accounts Committee, and it was known during the court proceedings that the owning company of the project was a shell company (an inactive company used as a vehicle for various financial maneuvers or kept dormant for future use in some other capacity) that was formed to launder the money out of the country. The Pakistani company that was in charge of the project was owned by a Singaporean company named Creek Marina Singapore, which was owned by Softener Holdings, which was registered in the British Virgin Islands. The affected persons stated in their letter that the owner of the Singaporean company, John George, was not a Singaporean and was a banker known to launder money; his name also came up in 2016 when the Panama Papers were leaked. An amount of $1,200,000 was laundered out of the country, which was received by all the conspirators of the scam.

An FIA investigation has revealed that the owner of the Pakistani company, Dr. Shehzad, with the help of Sindh Bank employees, opened an illegal account in the Name of Creek Marina Singapore, though it was not registered with the SECP. Pakistani laws do not allow bank accounts for international companies or companies that are not registered. The FIA investigation revealed that the funds were distributed to other people as well.

The FIA said that a man named Aftab Qureshi was also involved in the scam and deposited 1.5 million dollars in the Muslim Commercial Bank, Zaibunissa Street Branch in Karachi, which was transferred to the off-shore account. The affected have said that 3 billion rupees were laundered out of Pakistan. According to Dawn News anchor Adil Shahzeb, in his program, he said that viewing the situation of the case, it was hard to say when the case would be resolved.

Picture credit: The Express Tribune