Agha Hasan Abedi also known as Agha Sahab (May 14, 1922, Lucknow, India – August 5, 1995, Karachi, Pakistan) was a banker and philanthropist who founded the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) in 1972. BCCI was at one point the seventh largest private bank in the world, but it collapsed in 1991 after regulators in the United States and the United Kingdom found it was involved in a money laundering scandal. Mr. Abedi underwent a heart transplant operation in 1988, and died of a heart attack on August 5, 1995 in Karachi.
Early banking career
Agha Hasan Abedi was born in a well off Shia Muslim family in Lucknow, India and migrated to Pakistan after the partition of India, in 1947. Beginning his career with Habib Bank before independence, he brought about significant changes in Pakistan's banking culture when he founded the United Bank Ltd (UBL) in 1959 in Chittagong. Starting as its first general manager, he quickly rose to the position of president and chairman of the board of directors. Under his stewardship, UBL became the second largest bank in Pakistan. Mr Abedi introduced a host of professional innovations, including the concept of personalised service and banking support to trade and industry, paying particular attention to the bank's overseas operations. One of the first to comprehend the opportunities offered by the oil boom in the Persian Gulf, Mr Abedi pioneered close economic collaboration in the private sector between Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE President, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, extended his patronage to UBL operations both in Pakistan and abroad.
When banking was nationalised in Pakistan in 1972, Mr Abedi founded the Bank of Credit and Commerce International with the Bank of America NT & SA as a major shareholder. Registered in Luxembourg, the BCCI began its operations from a two-room head office in London. Over the years, it developed into a worldwide banking operation with branches in 72 countries and 16,000 employees on its payroll. Mr Abedi was personally responsible for inducting a large number of Pakistanis into the field of international banking and almost 80 per cent of the BCCI's top executive positions at the head office and in branches in various countries were held by Pakistanis. Mr Abedi severed his connection with BCCI in 1990 after suffering a heart attack and led a retired life in Karachi until his death of heart failure at Karachi's Aga Khan hospital in 1995.
Unlike regular banks, the BCCI was from its inception made up of multiplying layers of interwoven entities – which related to one another through a near impenetrable series of holding companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, banks-within-banks, insider dealings and nominee relationships. BCCI's fractured corporate structure, record keeping, regulatory review, and audits, allowed the complex BCCI family of entities created by Abedi to evade ordinary legal restrictions on the movement of capital and goods. In creating BCCI as a vehicle essentially free of government control, Abedi's BCCI became the ideal mechanism for facilitating illegal activity by others, including such activity by officials of many of the governments whose laws BCCI was breaking.
At the time of his death, Abedi was under indictment in several countries for crimes related to BCCI. However, Pakistani officials refused to give him up for extradition, claiming the charges were politically motivated. Even without this to consider, it is likely he would have been too sick to stand trial; he had been in poor health since suffering a stroke in the mid-1980s.
Mr Abedi founded charitable organizations in UK, India, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Pakistan.
The Infaq Foundation has only one office in Karachi, Pakistan. It has Capital and Reserves of over Rs.2.50 billion, which in 2009 are equivalent to just over US$30 million. Major beneficiaries among the known institutions are, Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation, National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, Lady Dufferin Hospital and Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology in Karachi, and GIK Institute of Engineering Sciences & Technology in Topi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. President Ghulam Ishaq Khan was the first Chairman of the Foundation from 1983 through 1995. Another personality, a supreme court judge and a former Governor of Sindh – Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim took over and is now the Chairman.
The Foundation has been managed by various Chief Executives. From 1981 to 1999 retired federal secretaries were Secretaries General of the Foundation. From 1999 to 2008 the position was held by Mr. Sohail Kizilbash, a Chartered Accountant qualified in UK and a person with long banking experience. From 2009 another Chartered Accountant and former banker Mr. Anwar Gillani is the Honorary Secretary General.
Mr. Abedi also founded BCCI FAST in 1980 with a donation of Rs. 100 million, to promote education in computer science. It is now the first multi-campus university of Pakistan, known as National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences. It has five campuses situated in Islamabad, Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad.
Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology was also the brainchild of Mr. Abedi. He felt that Pakistan should have another university for higher education, at Ph.D. level, for engineering and sciences and it should be comparable to universities in any developed country.
Abedi and Orangi Pilot Project
"In 1980, Akhtar Hameed Khan moved to Karachi where Agha Hassan Abedi, President of the BCCI Foundation and a renowned banker, asked him to use his expertise and knowledge to improve sanitation and employment in Karachi, Pakistan (LT 2000, 4). Dr. Khan immediately agreed, but under the condition that he would be able to do things his own way without any interference from Abedi or anyone else. Abedi agreed to this, and work was begun on what would become one of the most renowned projects in the world: The Orangi Pilot Project (OPP). Thus, in 1980, the Orangi Pilot Project was started and Dr. Khan remained associated with it until his death in 1999.
- Agha Hasan Abedi Auditorium at GIK Institute, Pakistan, was named after him.
- The Gold Medal at the National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences (FAST), awarded to the highest CGPA Holder of the batch, is known as the Agha Hasan Abedi Gold Medal.