A division bench of the Lahore High Court on Monday dismissed the bail petition of Sheikh Muhammad Afzal, owner of Haris Steel Mills and co-accused of Hamesh Khan in the Bank of Punjab (BoP) Rs9 billion loan scam.
The bench comprising Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry and Justice Mazhar Iqbal Sidhu rejected the bail after hearing the arguments.
Former federal law minister Dr Babar Awan, counsel for Afzal, pleaded that his client had been behind bars for 19 months but the trial had not formally commenced despite the fact that the trial court had held at least 25 hearings. He said his client was being punished for nothing. He said after the amendment in Section 497 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) through a presidential ordinance, concession of bail could be extended to an accused if his trial had not commenced for one year. Counsel for the Bank of Punjab opposed the bail application. She said that the BoP scam was the biggest bank fraud in the country’s history. She said Afzal was desperate, had threatened the advocate general and weapons had been recovered from him inside the jail. She said the law for bail under Section 497 CrPC was not applicable in his case.
Dr Awan countered that the Haris Steel loan had not been the biggest scandal. He said the biggest bank fraud was when Rs76 billion were taken out of the BoP.
In November 2009, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested Afzal and his son Haris Afzal from Kuala Lumpur and brought them back to Pakistan. Afzal was accused of obtaining loans using fake identity cards and fake sureties.
On September 27, 2007, the NAB filed a reference in an accountability court against 12 people, including six officials of the BoP and six others for a Rs9 billion fraud.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2011.