BANGLADESHI LINKS : ACC launches probe after Panama scam

Staff Correspondent

front03The Anti-Corruption Commission on Thursday launched a probe into involvement of Bangladeshi people, if any, in illegal investment in offshore companies in the secretive tax haven of the British Virgin Islands.
The commission formed a three-member probe committee four days after one of the biggest document leaks in history snared world leaders, celebrities and sports stars in a snowballing worldwide scandal on Monday over their secretive offshore financial dealings revealed by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The probe body led by commission’s deputy director Akter Hamid Bhuyan would investigate if any Bangladeshi people were named in the leaked documents, Panama Papers, said commission officials.
The probe body also investigate the allegation against Awami League presidium member Kazi Zafarullah, and directors of some of Bangladesh’s biggest business conglomerates, including Summit, Square and United group of companies that they owned offshore companies in secretive tax haven of British Virgin Islands, an commission director general told New Age.
He said that the commission had launched an inquiry in 2013 against them after a series of reports published in New Age, but the inquiry was not completed.
Now the committee would also complete the earlier probe collecting information from the leaked ‘Panama Papers’, the director general said.
According to the New Age reports, in July 2006, Kazi Zafarullah along with his wife Nilufer Zafar, also former lawmaker, became directors and shareholders of two offshore companies.
As directors of one of the companies, documents showed that Kazi Zafar and Nilufer opened a bank account in Singaporean branch of a Swiss bank, making them joint signatories.
The application form which they signed gave details of their Gulshan address and stated that the company was for ‘investment purposes.’
Two years later, in April 2008, their son Kazi Raihan Zafar became director and shareholder of another British Virgin Island company, with his wife Fahra Murad (providing a Canadian address) and his mother Nilufer also joining him as directors by the end of June 2008.
After six more months, whilst a ‘fugitive’ from a court verdict which had jailed him for to two years for failing to submit his wealth statement to the commission, Kazi Zafarullah – a distant relative of the prime minister by marriage – set up a further offshore company in which he was the sole director and shareholder.
According to the published reports, directors of some of Bangladesh’s biggest business conglomerates, including Summit, Square, and United Group, own or have owned offshore companies in the secretive tax haven of the British Virgin Islands.
Information about their offshore company ownership is contained amongst the 2.5 million electronic files which were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and which have been shared with New Age.
The files contain information from the databases of two offshore company service firms including Singapore-based Portcullis TrustNet which was the firm that these businessmen paid to set up their British Virgin Island companies.

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