Karachi: Big question mark on value of HBL heist
KARACHI: It may well be Pakistan’s biggest bank robbery. However, neither the bank nor some of the customers are willing to say much about how much as taken away on that August night at the Habib Bank’s Mansfield Street Branch. On the night between August 13 and 14 a security guard of the bank, Shah Mohammad along with his accomplices cut 56 small and large lockers and robbed cash jewellery, diamonds and foreign currency.
Many questions remain unanswered. Like the possible negligence that failed to safeguard the interests of its lockers holders.
Some point to the close circuit TV cameras that were not functioning after the incident as they are usually switched off after bank working hours.
It also transpired that some six months ago, the authorities concerned had allowed a few employees to work inside the strong-room for renovation work. Some locker holders protested against this but the bank remained indifferent. Due to obvious reasons, every locker–holder wanted some privacy while placing or taking out their valuables from the lockers.
The biggest question, however, remains the estimated value of the heist. When one woman locker holder arrived at the bank, she claimed she has 272 tolas of gold in her locker. And she was not alone in these claims.
The insurance company concerned said it would pay Rs500,000 to the victims who had small lockers and Rs1 million who had large lockers. An official of the bank who declined to be named said that all the terms and conditions before assigning lockers are mentioned to every client.
He said many victims claimed that insurance claim was much lower than their actual loss. However, he said, such claims could not be entertained. He said the bank had mentioned terms and conditions for locker holding in its application form. As per revised rent stating from July 2008, HBL charge Rs1,800 per annum for small lockers as rent and an amount of Rs2,000 is also charged as ‘key deposit’ for the same locker. Moreover excise duty of 10 percent is also charged. Likewise Rs2,500 are charged for medium lockers along with Rs2,500 as key deposit. Rs4,000 are charged as rent for large lockers and an amount of Rs3,000 is charged as key deposit from the locker holders.
An official of Preedy Police Station where an FIR was registered in this regard informed The News on the condition of anonymity that police has demanded explanation from the management of the bank that why the alarm was not working during the night of incident which was otherwise functional.
He said there is likelihood that alarm was deliberately deactivated. He said even details such as the estimate of the amount of stolen valuables have not been provided to the police.
According to him, two suspects Chinar Wali and Gul Hussain are being probed whereas prime suspect Shah Muhammad and Sultan are still absconders in the case. Senior Executive Vice President HBL, Abid Sattar when contacted said that management of the bank was inquiring from the security company whether alarm was activated or deactivated during the night of incident. He said that security company was checking the record in this context till filing the story.
Responding to another query that the bank’s employees were allowed to work inside the strong-room during renovation of the bank, Sattar denied that such a thing happened at the bank. He said the cameras only monitor the cash counters and this is the practice adopted in all the banks that after working hours cameras are switched off.
The HBL official also said that the bank would check the validity of claims of the victims and their compensation would be subject to the maximum limit as mentioned in the insurance policy.