No wrongdoing in Grand Hyatt project, FIA tells SC

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has informed the Supreme Court that all charges of wrongdoing in the land lease for construction of Grand Hyatt Hotel have been dropped after a fact-finding committee falsified the claims made by a team which had earlier investigated the scam.

A report submitted to the apex court showed that facts were distorted to target a single individual, adding most of the allegations leveled in the case were wrong.

The report said the bidding process was transparent. It referred to the judgment of Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi bench dated April 4, 2005, that said: “The auction held on 9.2.2005 in which different parties participated and BNP group offered the highest bid and the bidding was supervised by the Chairman CDA, members of the Board, and representatives from the Board of Investment, Privatization Commission and print and electronic media was a fair-play.”

Facts were distorted by investigation team as bidding for land lease was transparent, report says

About the allegation that the Capital Development Authority (CDA) had allowed a change to the master plan of Islamabad, the report said the investigation team was ignorant of the fact that in June 1997 the cabinet had approved the alteration in the master plan to provide for a five-star hotel adjacent to the Convention Centre.

It had also allowed relaxation in the use of land in Zone III to accommodate a hotel and shopping mall under the ICT Zoning Regulations 1992.

The investigation team wrongly attributed the site location of the five-star hotel and service apartments to Zone-VI which in reality is located in Zone III, it added.

The report referred to the formation of the fact-finding committee after a complaint was lodged with the director general of the FIA.

It said the accused and the members of the investigation team had been called by the committee and during the cross-examination the accused persons presented a number of documentary evidence to prove their innocence.

The investigation team members did not rebut the evidence but showed ignorance to the fact that such evidence was available.

There was no evidence in the case file regarding the loss of Rs25 billion to the government exchequer.

“During the cross-examination, the investigation team could not produce evidence to substantiate this allegation.”

The report said the accused in the case included Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, the chief executive officer (CEO) of BNP, former CDA chairman Kamran Lashari, retired Brig Nusrat, ex-member planning CDA; Kamran Qureshi, ex-member finance; Shoukat Mohammad, ex-member administration; Moin Kakakhel, ex-member engineering; Habibur Rahman Gilani, ex-director estate management; Dr Faisal Awan, former director project management, and others. It, however, said except the person whose firm won the bid the investigation team did not call any other accused person.

The first rescheduling of M/S BNP was requested after the Oct 2005 earthquake required formulation of new building codes.

The report said the rescheduling had been approved in consultation with the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet the second rescheduling was approved in Nov 2012 as the CDA failed to get a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for construction of the hotel tower.

On July 29, 2016, the lease deed was cancelled by the CDA without any justifiable grounds.

“This was the time when no criminal case was registered and the NOC for construction of hotel tower was still pending with the CAA.”

The CAA issued the NOC for the construction of the hotel with a restricted height of 331 feet whereas by that time the lease deed had already been cancelled.

The report also rebuffed the accusation that no bank guarantee had been obtained from BNP.

It said the performance guarantee was waived in the pre-bid meeting.

The specific insertion of a cancellation clause in the lease deed secured and protected the CDA’s interest, it added.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2018

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