SFO braces for court reverse in BCCI case

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The Independent Online
THE Serious Fraud Office faces a potentially embarrassing High Court judgment today in a pre-trial hearing in the case of Imran Imam, a former executive of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, whose trial on six charges of false accounting is due to start on 28 January.

In the course of the proceedings, Mr Imam applied for the charges to be dropped, claiming the SFO had committed an abuse of process, particularly in regard to documents it obtained from Mr Imam.

The judgment is sensitive because the SFO has angered US investigators into the BCCI affair by charging Mr Imam after he came forward voluntarily to help the Americans with their inquiries.

Last month John Moscow, the New York assistant district attorney who is jointly leading the BCCI inquiry, spoke in the High Court in support of Mr Imam's application. He said the SFO had misled the Americans. Had they known that the SFO meant to bring charges against Mr Imam, said Mr Moscow, the New York authorities would not have shared confidential grand jury evidence with the British.

The SFO alleges that Mr Imam, a BCCI account officer, conspired with a customer of the bank to conceal by false accounting the extent of its exposure to the customer.

The SFO is under pressure following a number of court decisions that have gone against it, and the lightness of the sentence against fraudster Roger Levitt.

Two further SFO trials concerning BCCI are scheduled. One begins on 10 January in the case of Mohammed Baqi, the former managing director of Attock Oil. It is alleged that Mr Baqi, whose company was a client of BCCI, signed false audit confirmations to non-existent loan accounts and bogus charges levied on those accounts in the books of BCCI.

The trial of Nazmudin Virani, former chairman of Control Securities and his private group of companies Virani Group, starts on 17 January.

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