LHC dismisses bail plea of Afzal in BoP scam
LAHORE: A division bench of the Lahore High Court on Monday dismissed the bail petition of Sheikh Afzal, the owner of Haris Still Mills and co-accused of Hamesh Khan in the Bank of Punjab (BoP) Rs 9 billion scam.
Former Federal Law Minister Babar Awan appeared before the court on behalf of Afzal and contended that his client was languishing behind the bar for 19 months but the trial had not still started despite the fact the trial court had held at least 25 hearings. He said after the amendment to Section 497 of the CrPC, through a presidential ordinance, concession of bail could be extended to an accused if his trial did not start for a period of one year. He said his client was being punished for nothing.
Barrister Masooma, the counsel for the BoP, opposed the bail application and argued that the scam was the biggest bank fraud in the country’s history as big fish were involved in it. She said law for concession of bail under Section 497 CrPC was not applicable to the NAB accused and they could not be released on bail on the pretext of the law. She said Sheikh Afzal was desperate accused as he had hurled threats on the Punjab advocate general and weapons were also recovered from him inside jail premises. Masooma’s arguments annoyed Babar Awan as he went on to say that BoP was not the biggest scandal. Without naming the accused, he said that in biggest bank fraud 76 billion were taken out of the BoP.
The bench, comprising Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry and Justice Mazhar Iqbal Sidhu, rejected application after hearing arguments from both the sides and dismissed the bail application. In November 2009, National Accountability Bureau had arrested Afzal, co-accused of Hamesh Khan, and his son Haris Afzal from Kuala Lumpur and brought them to Pakistan. Sheikh Afzal was accused of drawing loans on fake identity cards.
On September 27, 2007, NAB had filed a reference in an accountability court against 12 people, including six BoP officials and six other accused in Rs 9billion fraud. After the reference was filed, name of the Hamesh was put on the Exit Control List, however in July 2008, Hamesh fled the country despite being on the ECL. The court provided him several opportunities to appear before it and assured him security, but he did not turn up.