Virani convicted over role at BCCI: Former Control Securities chief faces jail sentence for part in bank's activities

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The Independent Online
NAZMUDIN VIRANI was yesterday found guilty at the Old Bailey of playing a vital role in helping the Bank of Credit and Commerce International to deceive the bank's auditors over its disastrous finances.

Virani, who helped to build Control Securities into one of the fastest-growing property companies of the 1980s, will be sentenced on 11 May. Mr Justice Hutchinson warned Virani that the gravity of his offences meant a prison sentence 'appeared inevitable', and remanded him in custody.

The charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office against Virani went to the heart of the British part of BCCI's fraudulent banking empire. BCCI was shut down by banking regulators co-operating around the world in July 1991, after it had run up billions of pounds of losses.

Yesterday Virani was convicted of six charges of providing false information to Price Waterhouse, BCCI's auditor. He was convicted of one false accounting charge but cleared of conspiring to defraud BCCI and a count of theft.

Four charges of furnishing false information were ordered to lie on the file when the jury was discharged without reaching verdicts after five days' deliberation.

The court found that Virani signed a series of falsified documents stating that his own private companies owed a number of debts to BCCI between 1987 and 1990. These 'loans' were treated by the bank's auditor, Price Waterhouse, as assets, the court heard. It affected the approach they took in assessing BCCI's true financial position.

The device was a means of fooling the auditor and inflating the bank's profits, Anthony Hacking QC, prosecuting, alleged in a trial which lasted more than three months. The help provided by Virani enabled BCCI to deceive the Bank of England into renewing its banking licence, the court heard.

In return, the prosecution alleged, Virani was granted huge loans by BCCI and given cash payments. His chauffeur collected pounds 204,000 cash in a suitcase from the bank's London office on one occasion, taking it to Virani who was waiting in a Rolls- Royce, it was alleged.

In 1987, an investment of pounds 36m from BCCI enabled Control Securities, the company of which Virani was then chairman, to become one of the world's leading property companies. Virani no longer has any link with Control Securities, which has since been renamed Ascot Holdings and is now trading normally.

Virani was the epitome of the Thatcherite go-getter. His family arrived in Britain in 1972 after being expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin. After building up a supermarket and hotel chain, Virani bought into a struggling drinks manufacturer and turned it round. He bought Control Securities in 1985 and quickly transformed it by reducing borrowings and injecting property in return for paper.

Virani, Asian Businessman of the Year in 1990, quickly became a player in the booming property market of the mid-1980s, dealing with figures such as Tony Clegg, John Ritblat and Gerald Ronson. He bought into the pub industry in 1988 and by 1990 was running a group with more than 100 properties, 24 hotels, 800 pubs and a brewery. The group suffered in the recession, and in 1991 made a pre-tax loss of pounds 3.3m.

David Steel, the former Liberal leader, gave Virani a character reference in court.

Virani is the third figure to be convicted in the UK in relation to the BCCI saga. In September 1993, Syed Akbar, former head of BCCI's treasury division, was jailed for six year after he admitted 16 charges of false accounting involving pounds 507.5m. In February 1994, Mohammed Abdul Baqi, a former oil company managing director, was fined pounds 120,000 plus pounds 50,000 costs for helping BCCI to exaggerate its profits and deceive the bank's auditors.