Tycoon who stole BCCI's pounds 750m jailed

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The Independent Online
THE MAN who broke the Bank of Credit and Commerce International and was jailed for 14 years lost his appeal yesterday against conviction.

Abbas Gokal, a Pakistani-born shipping tycoon, was found guilty in 1997 of playing a key role in the $20bn (pounds 12.5bn) collapse of the bank. He had, said the prosecution, siphoned some $1.2bn (pounds 750m) through a maze of offshore companies. Gokal said he was innocent.

Gokal, 62, was in the dock yesterday as Lord Justice Rose, sitting with Mr Justice Latham and Mr Justice Colman, rejected his appeal during a 90-minute hearing in London.

The former businessman was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to account falsely, at the conclusion of a 122-day trial at the Old Bailey, costing pounds 4.5m. His sentence was the steepest of its kind to be handed out by a British court.

The trial judge, Mr Justice Buxton, said Gokal's actions had threatened the integrity of the entire international banking system. The judge added that Gokal was "an intelligent, sophisticated and unscrupulous man, who put the interests of yourself and your family before all else".

As well as his 14-year sentence, Gokal was ordered to pay pounds 2.9m out of his personal assets within two years, or face another three years in prison.

Gokal's counsel, Alun Jones QC, submitted that Gokal's convictions on both counts were "unsafe".

The main grounds centred on the circumstances in which Gokal, who was arrested in Germany in 1994, was brought within this jurisdiction.

He claimed that the indictment against him should have been "stayed as an abuse of the process of the court".

But the judges ruled yesterday that this claim was "unfounded" and "without substance".

Gokal's other grounds, including submissions that the evidence of BCCI depositors was wrongly admitted and also that the trial judge's summing up was unfair towards him, were also rejected.

Lord Justice Rose, giving the ruling of the court, said that the prosecution case against Gokal of his dishonest participation in the two conspiracies was "overwhelming".

It was a highly-sophisticated fraud with "international consequences of great gravity" and Gokal was "at its heart", the judge said.

The court further ruled that the total prison sentence given to Gokal was "correct".