Victims of Chakwal dowry scam see no hope for recovery of over Rs14m

CHAKWAL: A year after the Chakwal dowry scam, in which hundreds of parents lost over Rs 14 million in an attempt to buy dowry items at subsidised prices, the Chakwal police have finally arrested a ‘key’ player in the scam on June 15.

The victims however see no hope of recovering their lost money.

The suspect, Shehzad Ahmed Awan, was arrested after Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Syed Kazim Naqvi declared him guilty during the investigation into one of the largest scams to occur in Chakwal.

Two suspects so far identified, one arrested

A case has been registered against Mr Awan and his accomplice, Amjad Hussain, under section 406 of the PPC, on a complaint by Saira Nadeem, who was used to run the scam.

Mr Awan was presented before the court of civil judge Usman Sarwar on June 16, and was remanded for four days. He was then presented to the court on June 20, and police obtained a three-day extra remand, while the second suspect has not yet been arrested.

Ms Nadeem became immensely popular in April 2015, after she launched a dowry scheme under which various dowry items were promised to be distributed to applicants at low prices. Once the scheme was launched, many low-income families applied by depositing money with Ms Nadeem who is illiterate and from a rural area.

In her application, Ms Nadeem said she visited Ali Shan Electronics in Balkassar village on April 28 to buy some products on instalments. She described Mr Awan as the shop owner and Mr Hussain as the sales manager, and said they told her they had a scheme financed by foreigners, under which dowry items were to be given to customers at half the price, while the other half would be borne by those operating the scheme.

She said the two men asked her to work for them on a monthly salary of Rs15,000, and to hire women to be agents in various villages.

“I accepted the offer as I needed money. I hired 42 women in different villages, who convinced the women in their respective villages to apply for dowry items,” she said.

She told Dawn that in the initial months, Mr Awan and Mr Hussain gave her dowry items, which she in turn distributed to applications.

“But the dowry items were not given as they were supposed to be given. For example, if a person deposited money for three dowry items such as a refrigerator, a washing machine and a sofa set, she was only given one item with the claim that the other two would be given soon, but they weren’t,” she said.

A total of 42 agents collected Rs33.2 million from hundreds of people. According to Ms Nadeem, she gave all the money to Mr Awan and Mr Hussain, who gave her dowry items worth Rs18.6 million and kept Rs14.6 million.

Applicants who had deposited money with Ms Nadeem then began visiting her home, and some even took household items from her home by force. Last year, she registered a complaint with the district police officer (DPO), who ordered the then station house officer of Neela police station to investigate the matter, but to no avail.

Mr Awan also filed a suit against Ms Nadeem in a civil court, in which he claimed she had to give him Rs5.2 million for various dowry items she had purchased from his shop.

A few weeks ago, a victim filed a complaint with the police saying he had given Ms Nadeem Rs500,000 for dowry items, but she did not give him the items or return his money. The matter reached DSP Naqvi, who personally investigated it and declared Mr Awan and Mr Hussain guilty.

On the orders of the DSP, Saddar police registered a case against both the suspects and arrested Mr Awan.

Mr Naqvi told Dawn: “The poor and downtrodden parents have been defrauded. The culprits will be brought to book at any cost.”

Ms Nadeem’s counsel, Chaudhry Amjad Hassan, told Dawn that to recover the victims’ money, the case should be investigated by the National Accountability Bureau.

The Chakwal DPO, Monir Masood Marath, who took charge a few months ago, told Dawn he would investigate the matter himself, and has summoned both parties on June 22 for investigation.

According to Mr Awan, he did not defraud Ms Nadeem. He claimed that she and her husband set up an organisation and scammed poor people. “Being a shopkeeper, I only sold different items to her. She purchased items worth Rs15 million,” he told Dawn.

Published in Dawn, June 22th, 2016

Courtesy DAWN