Suspicion surrounds Islamic group’s bid for Pennsylvania property

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Hira Educational Services of North America, an Islamic group based in Newark, New Jersey who placed the winning bid on a 145-acre property in Pennsylvania, has kept their bid active by returning the required paperwork before the deadline of 5 p.m. Thursday.

Questions are still swirling, however, about just who the group is and what they actually intend to do with the property, should the sale go through.

It was reported on June 2 that the group placed the winning bid of $400,000 on the former Youth Development Center in Shenango Township, Pennsylvania.

The group’s website states that, “We offer our services to the Islamic Schools who are not getting the educational ads from the Government. Since the establishment of HESNA, over 200+ Islamic institutions and organizations throughout the United States have received counsel in the areas of strategic planning, board development, capital campaigns, recruitment searches, and executive coaching.”

However, Lawrence County Commissioners have expressed concern, as they have no information on the identity of the bidder, or what the actual intent is for the property. “We really have no knowledge on who the bidders are, (or) what their plans are,” said County Commissioner Dan Vogler, according to the Daily Caller.

Newcastle News reported that locals and township supervisors are becoming concerned about a possible collusion in the bidding process, as a man identified as Muhammad Asif Kunwar submitted an individual bid on the property – yet he is also listed as the president and CEO of Hira.

Kunwar reportedly placed the minimum bid of $300,000 under his own personal name, then Hira placed the winning bid of $400,000 after a Sumner McDanel placed a bid of $305,000. Kunwar signed the bid that he submitted personally, but did not sign the bid that Hira submitted.

At a public meeting Thursday, June 8, Shenango Township supervisors read a letter they wrote to the state’s Department of General Services Bureau of Real Estate, expressing their concerns. Bids were required to be “arrived at independently and without consultation, communication or agreement with any other contractor, bidder or potential bidder.”

The letter stated, “The Township is concerned with the potential for collusion amongst the bidders in violation of the Non-Collusion requirements outlined in Section 8 of the Invitation to Bid instructions, and in the Non-Collusion affidavit.”

“Mr. Kunwar’s role as both independent bidder, and CEO of the winning bidder, raises questions about whether the non-collusion rules have been violated,” supervisor Frank Augustine said at the meeting.

Reportedly, Augustine also noted that Hira “only has two employees, no assets and no revenue.”

Another concern expressed was the fact that the property’s original price was $17 million, but then the price was dropped to $3 million, and eventually being “sold” for a winning bid of only $400,000.

He highlighted the fact that the state of Pennsylvania is the one who closed down the Youth Development Center and then set the sale price.

One local resident, Shirley Sallmen, questioned why the bidding process was not advertised locally with a real estate company.

Local businessman Doug Caggiano noted that Hira’s website has many missing links, and asked where is their money coming from?

Now that Hira has submitted the signed agreement of sale, the document must go through the Commonwealth signature process, which will take 30 to 45 days, Newcastle News reported. Once it is processed, Hira will have five days to come up with a $32,000 deposit, then another 60 days to come up with the remainder of the $400,000 bid price.

Newcastle News pointed out the “links” to the group’s social media pages on their website go nowhere, and calls to the organization have not been returned.

Who is Hira, what are they planning to do with the property, and why did the CEO bid against himself? Those questions have still gone unanswered.

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