By Shabbir Sarwar

LAHORE: The Lahore Anti-Corruption team failed to procure any proof or useful information from Prof Dr Iftikhar Baig, the main accused in Rs 1 billion fraud case of a ghost housing society with the name of Education Housing Society, despite keeping him under a physical remand for 13 days. The 14-day physical remand ends today (Wednesday).

The progress rate of the case has alarmed scandal victims who are worried about the recovery of their looted money. Meanwhile, the court of Judicial Magistrate Naqeeb Shahzad Zaffar Iqbal on Monday granted a further two-day remand of Dr Baig.

Anti-Corruption Inspector Rana Fawad produced the accused before the court where a large number of scandal victims were also present. After hearing arguments of both the sides, the judge extended Dr Baig’s physical remand until March 28 so that proper information could be obtained with regards to the whereabouts of his (Dr Baig) accomplices and other related information.

The anti-corruption team has so far been unable to arrest any of the other accused persons, including wife of Dr Baig, who is also a member of the board of the so-called housing society.

The victims include Muhammad Younis Chisti, Raja Abbas Ali, Muzaffar Ali, Muhammad Sajjad Akhtar, Prof Rubina Attique, Munawar Ali, Rashid Iqbal, Prof Mumtaz Muhammad Islam, Janat Bibi, Muhammad Aslam Yasin, Muhammad Aslam Iqbal and others. Two lawyers, including Supreme Court’s Advocate Chaudhry Muhammad Shaif and Lahore High Court Advocate Rana Riaz Ahmed Khan presented the victims’ case before the judge.

The Anti-Corruption Department arrested Baig 15 days ago in a fraud case involving Rs 1 billion – the money that had been looted from 4,500 national and overseas Pakistanis in the name of a housing colony. Baig is the former principal of Government College Township, former chairman of the Rawalpindi Education Board and currently employed as professor in the Shalimar College, Lahore. Anti-Corruption Department’s Inspector Rana Fawad arrested Dr Baig from the MAO College where he had been invited as chief guest for a sports ceremony. He was arrested on a tip-off from some of the victims of the scandal.

According to documents available with Daily Times, Dr Baig was arrested eight months after the Punjab chief minister had ordered transfer of the case from Rawalpindi to Lahore, and directed the authorities to arrest the culprit within “three days”.

FIR no 17/11 had been registered against the accused in Rawalpindi under section 420/468 on June 11, 2011. Raja Abbas Ali had registered the FIR through the chief minister. The case was later shifted to Lahore on the request of the complainants. According to the FIR, Dr Baig and his accomplices had launched a fraudulent housing scheme, namely Education City, over 4,000 kanals of land on Fateh Jang Road near the Islamabad airport. They launched the project with the help of an NGO, Education Foundation, and around 4,500 people were deprived of Rs 1 billion. Partners of Dr Baig included MAO College’s Professor Syed Ishfaq Hussain Shah, former Finance Department employee Nazir Ahmed, Zubaida Baig, the wife of Dr Iftikhar, Lubna Tirmizi and Shamim Akhtar.

The accused launched the project and advertised it in the media, attracting Pakistani and overseas investors. Each victim of the scam had paid Rs 61,000 to the ‘owners’ of the Education City – Rs 50,000 in advance, Rs 1,000 as a membership fee and Rs 10,000 in commission. The officials from Anti-Corruption Department said that Baig’s physical remand would allow them to procure important information that could lead to the arrest of other accused persons. It is noteworthy that the victims already managed to freeze an account having Rs 120 million under the name of the prime accused of the scandal.