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Ex-governor’s son-in-law defaulted on Rs 1.8 bn loan
Sunday, June 13, 2010
BoP scandal snowballs as NAB digs more dirt
By Ansar Abbasi
ISLAMABAD: The Bank of Punjab scam is snowballing into Pakistan’s modern-day Watergate scandal as some latest revelations show the son-in-law of former Punjab governor, Lt-Gen (retd) Khalid Maqbool got a whopping Rs 1.8 billion from the bank and defaulted.
The BoP scam, which has already uncovered the multi-billion scandals of Harris Steel loan (Rs 9 billion); the controversial sale of Phalia Sugar Mill of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat for Rs 2.2 billion with BoP money borrowed by a sitting director of the Bank and the mind-boggling lending of over Rs 18 billion to five sitting directors of the BoP in violation of the Bank policy, has now popped up yet another Rs 1.8 billion scam.
Much more is, however, expected to surface as the prime accused of the BoP scandal Hamesh Khan opens his mouth.
Sources in NAB confided to The News that the Bureau had been formally approached by the present Bank of Punjab management, seeking an inquiry against the son-in-law of the former Punjab governor, Lt-Gen Khalid Maqbool, for not returning the Rs 1.8 billion loan that was given to Ahsan Latif’s (the son-in-law’s) company on political pressures.
According to the sources, the director general, NAB, Lahore, received a letter from the head of the Special Assets Management (SAM) group of the Bank of Punjab to initiate an inquiry against Ahsan Latif, whose company M/s Gas Naturale owes Rs 1.8 billion to the BoP.
“M/s Gas Naturale (Pvt) Ltd through its directors has obtained a loan amounting to Rs 1.8 billion. The loan was awarded in an unorthodox manner, and the BoP stepped in as a sole lender to the project because of political pressure exerted by the party who happens to be son-in-law of the then Punjab governor,” the BoP letter written to NAB said, adding: “Due to lending at such a large scale without merit, the loan is in default now causing loss to the bank and the project is completely stuck. The borrower is not paying its portion of equity nor is ready to transfer the project to the BoP.”
The BoP management requested NAB to help the bank recover its money by ordering inquiry/investigation into the matter under the NAB ordinance so that culprits could be brought to justice and amounts may be recovered from them.
Both Khalid Maqbool and Ahsan Latif when contracted by The News were not available. According to a telephone operator at Maqbool’s Lahore residence both the former governor and his son-in-law are presently abroad and may return by the end of the month. The person, who attended The News call neither disclosed as to which country Maqbool and Latif had gone nor did he give any of their contact numbers. The operator, however, provided to this correspondent mobile numbers of Maqbool’s PA called Tariq, but he was, too, inaccessible as his cellular numbers were not connecting.
The BoP sources, however, confirm that the bank had approached NAB in this case for inquiry and recovery of the money. The bank sources alleged that Ahsan Latif secured undue favours from the bank following political pressure during the governorship of his father-in-law the retired general and former NAB chairman.
The sources said that following political pressure, the Bank management had to give loan to Ahsan Latif’s company despite the fact that the company was financially incapable to support such a mega project. These sources also talk of managerial incapability of the BoP to handle the project as the group had no significant experience in the said field or business of that scale in any other industry.
“The BoP’s credit decision to solely finance such a project was imprudent,” one of these sources said, adding, “Misleading and factually incorrect information was submitted to the bank, with wilful intent to deceive the bank authorities.”
It is also said that while this project was suffering from escalation and delays, the BoP allowed another loan of Rs28 million to M/s Synergy Power, belonging to the same group- Gas Naturale (Pvt) Ltd.
Meanwhile, documents also show that former governor Maqbool, during early 2008 when he was still the governor of the province, entered into an agreement with the BoP, which is owned by the Punjab Government, whereby he had rented out his commercial property at the DHA, Lahore, to the BoP for Rs 620,000 per month.
The said agreement was signed between Maqbool and the BoP on March 1, 2008, but on April 4, 2008, the then governor, approached the BoP’s GM Operations, seeking the cancellation of the agreement, contending that the said property was required by him (Maqbool) for his personal use. The agreement though signed for 12 years with one year advance of Rs7.4 million because of Maqbool’s change of mind possibly after the PML-N-PPP government took over the Punjab’s rule the said agreement was cancelled.
After the cancellation of the agreement, Maqbool returned to the BoP the advance money that he had received and included a pay order of Rs5.3 million and a crossed cheque of Rs372,000.