LAHORE - Financial institutions are hiring the services of tough guys for recovering money from defaulting customers. Incidents of scuffles and roughing up of customers on roads especially at night have become common. The leasing of cars by the banks has risen manifold in the last few years. Cars are leased out at even 15 percent down payment. Sometimes people lag behind in paying the instalments. Though the State Bank does not allow banks to use pressure tactics for recoveries they have now started hiring the services of tough guys to do so. Usually armed with weapons they use foul language and often beat the defaulting customers. Interestingly at times even a system error in the bank could unleash them on the customer, who never defaulted. On Monday night businessman Ashraf Babbur, who has shops in Azam Cloth Market in Shalmi area, was going back to his home along with his son when four men on motorbikes intercepted his Honda City car LRU 2225 on Davis Road at 9:30 pm. "I first thought that they were car snatchers. They said they were employees of Standard Chartered Bank and that I had defaulted. They asked me to hand over the vehicle to them. Using abusive language they boarded the car and asked me to drive to Kashmir Road where the bank's warehouse was. They used such abusive language in front of my son that I almost broke into tears. They continued to harass me for one hour till the bank officer Abdul Nasir arrived," Babbur said while talking to The Nation. Interestingly two policemen on patrol in the area Shahid Mahmood and Muhammad Azam came on the scene and prevented the tough guys from roughing up Babbur and his son. They stayed at the scene the whole time and asked them to show their identity, which they failed to provide. The bank officer later came and showed his identity. He announced that he was seizing the car and Babbur could contact the bank later. Babbur insisted that he had not defaulted. But he could not prove anything as the file that could prove his innocence was at home in Model Town. Nasir in the end made him agree to proceed to the bank's Tufail Road branch. "The bank was especially opened. I waited at the bank while my son brought the file from home. It proved my innocence. I was allowed to go home at 1:30 am. CCTV cameras would confirm this. Is this the way to treat customers? The bank officer apologised but the gangsters warned me that if I complained about it they would teach me a lesson. I had not defaulted and still had to face harassment and torture. I have consulted lawyers and have decided to move court," Babbur said. When contacted on Tuesday Abdul Nasir the incident was regrettable. "It was a system error. Our record showed that he had defaulted and had to pay Rs 83,000. I have apologised to Babbur Sahib," he said. About the tough guys, Nasir said they were not employees of the bank. "The bank has contract with them. Their duty is to trace the customer and recover the car. They have to bring the car to the bank's premises. Their job ends then. For each recovered car Rs 15,000 is paid to them," he revealed.    The process adopted by banks is illegal and causing harassment to customers. Last month District and Sessions Judge, Sialkot, Sohaib Ahmed Rumi had dismissed bail applications of two officials of Citi Bank Sialkot against whom a customer got registered an FIR with Muradpur police station. "Financial institutions cannot hire the services of any private party or individual for the recovery of its property from the possession of even defaulting customer," held the judge.