$1.2bn fraudster begins appeal

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THE MAN jailed for 14 years for breaking the Bank of Credit and Commerce International took his case to the the Court of Appeal yesterday.

Abbas Gokal, a Pakistan-born shipping tycoon, had siphoned off $1.2bn in the $20bn collapse.

He was found guilty of fraud and false accounting at the Old Bailey in 1997 after a 122-day trial that cost pounds 4.5m. Gokal, 62, was also ordered to pay pounds 2.9m within two years, or face three more years in prison.

One of the main grounds for the appeal are the circumstances under which Gokal ended up in court. He was arrested in July 1994 in Frankfurt, Germany, when his flight from Karachi to the US stopped for refuelling.

Sources stated at the time that the district attorney's office in New York had offered him a plea bargaining deal and were said to be furious at the Serious Fraud Office. John Moscow, New York assistant district attorney, had written to Gokal's lawyers: "I have spoken to the prosecuting authorities in the United Kingdom. They tell me that they have no current plans to arrest Mr Gokal when he meets with us."

Gokal's Gulf Group, a Middle East-based shipping company, was the biggest borrower from BCCI. He and his two brothers Mustafa and Murtaza, who are living in Pakistan, once controlled more than 100 vessels.

Gokal's appeal is led by Alun Jones QC, who acts for the government of Spain and is one of Britain's foremost authorities on extradition.