UBL stamps out fraud

One of Pakistan’s top banks, United Bank Limited, has closed six of its eleven UK branches in the last year amid allegations of fraud and multi-million pound losses.

UBL, which was set up in 1959 by the same man who founded BCCI, has agreed a plan with the Bank of England to improve its systems after the discovery of a major fraud at its Oldham office in 1996.

The threat of scandal at the UK arm of UBL, which is audited by KPMG, has been raised during an industrial tribunal hearing in Manchester in which a group of former employees allege they were unfairly dismissed, claiming they could prove widespread fraud.

Zubyr Soomro, the bank’s president, speaking to Accountancy Age from Karachi, confirmed there had been problems in the past.

He said: ‘The period the allegations are talking about relates to 1996. At the time we had a need to strengthen the systems and controls of the bank – banks in the developing world don’t have the same kind of controls as banks in the developed world. That task is now well underway, and we don’t believe there is any fraud today.’

Soomro denied the bank had losses of #100m, saying it lost #30m in 1996/1997, and claims the bank closures and redundancies will help ease the bank back into profit in 1997.

The bank was nationalised in 1973 and any losses would be fully underwritten by the Pakistan government. ‘All our obligations are covered by the state,’ Soomro said.

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