LAHORE - The Sharif family won the case against various banks which had allegedly issued billions of rupees as loans in favour of different concerns of Ittefaq Group of Companies as the Lahore High Court set aside all the references filed against the mighty group.

Justice Sardar Shamim Khan, a referee judge of the Lahore High Court, concluded the case, instituted by Accountability Bureau some 17 years ago, after hearing both the sides here on Friday. The Sharif family, through its counsel, Advocate Ashtar Ausaf, pleaded that all the loans had been paid back to the banks and neither of the companies of Ittefaq Group was a loan defaulter.

A consortium of eight banks had sanctioned a collective loan of Rs 970 million to Ittefaq Group of industries between 1982 and 1998. In most of the cases, the loan was not paid back and the banks had added Rs 5 billion as markup against the sanctioned amount.

Earlier, a two-member bench had failed to reach consensus on the issue and the matter was referred to the referee judge for the final decision on it.

The legal point on which both the members of the bench differed was whether the alleged family willfully committed the default or not. A judge held that the case should not be quashed while another member believed it should be quashed. On this legal point, the matter was sent to a third judge (a referee judge) for final verdict.

On Friday, Advocate Ashtar Ausaf, the ruling family’s counsel, told the judge that the Foundry had cleared complete liability of the banks along with the markup. He said the recovery had been made and the contentions of the NAB authorities were wrong from the day one. He said the banks were rather to pay some amount to Sharif family now because the value of the properties was more than the value of the original amount and the markup his clients had to pay.

The petitioner’s counsel contended that the cases against the Sharif family were instituted on the directions of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf. He questioned if the banks were required to pay back to his clients, how it could be said that they had committed a default.

Punjab Prosecutor General Waqas Qadeer Dar appeared on behalf of the NAB and argued that no final verdict was given by any authority in favour of the Sharif family. Ashtar Ausaf produced clearance certificates of various banks before the judge, showing all the loans had been returned to the banks.

The law officer admitted that a complete recovery had been made. However, he said, they did not receive the clearance certificates.

After hearing both the parties, Justice Sardar Muhammad Shahmim Khan set aside all the references against the Sharif family and others.

The banks which had filed suits in the courts were National Bank of Pakistan, United Bank, Bank of Punjab, Zarai Taraqiati Bank, NIB, Habib Bank, Allied Bank, PICIS and Punjab Mudaraba Bank.

The principal amount payable to the banks was Rs 970 million while Rs 4 billion were the interest money imposed against the original amount the banks received from the family.