LOAN SCAMS IN STATE-OWNED BANKS

Directors go scot free, bank officials chased

Shakhawat Hossain | Published: 00:26, Feb 26,2018 | Updated: 01:38, Feb 26,2018

 
 

Lower and mid-level bankers are facing prosecution for loan scams while boards of directors get off scot-free and even some of them have been promoted although they have failed to prevent misappropriation of billions of taka from the state-owned banks in the past nine years.
The Anti-Corruption Commission has so far brought charges or arrested 41 bankers for their alleged involvement in the loan scams, including embezzlement of Tk 3,700 crore by Hallmark Group from Sonali Bank and Tk 6,000 crore from BASIC Bank, said commission officials.
The commission, however, brought no charge against directors including former BASIC Bank chairman Sheikh Abdul Hye Bacchu, they said.
On June 30, 2015, finance minister AMA Muhith told parliament that action could not be taken against Sheikh Abdul Hye Bacchu because of ruling Awami League leaders.
Besides, embezzlement of Tk 1,200 crore from five banks, including state-owned Janata Bank, and loan scam of Tk 5,500 crore by AnonTex Group in Janata Bank during the tenure of Abul Barakat-led board of directors raised questions about the role of directors appointed on political considerations, said experts.
They noted that such appointments increased significantly since the beginning of the back-to-back five-year tenure of the ruling Awami League in 2009.
Former interim government adviser Mirza Azizul Islam said that politically appointed directors could not avoid the responsibility of the loan scams that caused disaster in the state-run banks.
The country’s banking sector is now in total disarray, said Mirza Aziz, who was reportedly forced to resign in December 2006 as Sonali Bank chairman following his refusal to approve a Tk 15 crore loan for the then president Iajuddin Ahmed’s son Imtiaj Ahmed.
Six BASIC Bank officerals –– deputy managing director Fazlus Sobhan, former Gulshan branch manager Shiper Ahmed, its commercial credit information department former manager M Selim, former Saidpur branch manager Ekramul Bari and general manager Joynal Abiden Chowdhury –– are now in jail as cases filed against 27 officials, including the six, by the Anti-Corruption Commission for loan scams are under investigation.
Twenty-five Sonali Bank officials, including former managing director Humayun Kabir (now in hiding), deputy managing directors Mainul Haque and Atiqur Rahman, general managers Nani Gopal Nath and Mir Mohidur Rahman, deputy general managers Sheikh Altaf Hossain and M Safiz Uddin Ahmed, and assistant general managers Kamrul Hossain Khan and Ezaz Ahmed, and Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch former assistant general manager AKM Azizur Rahman are now facing trial for the Hallmark loan scams.
The commission in 2013 and 2014 dropped inquiries against former Sonali Bank directors Kazi Baharul Islam, Subhash Singha Roy, M Anwar Sahid, Abu Sayed Mohammed Nayeem, KM Zaman Romel, Satendra Chandra Bhaktha, M Shahidullah Miah, Kasem Humayun, Saimum Sarwar Kamal, Jannat Ara Henry who were the board members during the embezzlement of Tk 3,700 crore by Hallmark Group from Sonali’s Ruposhi Bangla hotel branch.
Saimum Sarwar Kamal, former Chhatra League leader of Chittagong University, became a member of parliament being elected uncontested in 2014 elections, boycotted by all opposition parties, with an Awami League ticket.
Subhash Singha Roy, former Chatra League leader, is now running a news portal abcnews24.com and Jannat Ara Henry, a schoolteacher in Sirajganj before being appointed as director to the Sonali Bank board of directors, became a joint secretary general of the central Awami League.
KM Zaman Romel, son of AL lawmaker Khandaker Asaduzzaman, in 2016 became chairman of the Peoples Group comprising companies of shipping, garments, power plants, gas station and international trading.
Kasem Humayun, Bangla daily Sangbad executive editor, is now serving as Agrani Bank director.
Finance ministry officials said that two of the six public servants serving as directors to BASIC Bank during the period of loan scams in 2009-2014 had been promoted to secretary.
Shuvashish Bose, appointed BASIC Bank director while serving as Export Promotion Bureau vice-chairman, was made secretary to textiles and jute ministry in January and commerce secretary in March in 2017.
Syam Sunder Sikder was made a director at the bank while serving as the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation chairman in 2013. He was made secretary to the information and communication technology division in September 2014 and the telecom secretary in March 2017.
Fakhrul Islam, made a director while serving as Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority executive chairman, was promoted to secretary without any post in August 2014. Later, he went into retirement.
Quamrun Naher Ahmed, made a director while he was a joint secretary, was promoted to additional secretary.
Another former director Neelufar Ahmed is serving at the Prime Minister’s Office.
AKM Rezaur Rahman, made a director while he was an additional secretary, was later appointed to the Sonali Bank board of directors.
Five of the former BASIC Bank directors, including Awami Juba League leader Anwarul Islam, also ARS Lube Bangladesh Ltd managing director, and ruling Awami League mouthpiece Uttaran assistant editor Anis Ahmed, were appointed from the private sector.
Anwarul Islam is serving as a director to the state-owned Dhaka Electric Supply Company Limited while Anis Ahmed is working as news editor of the magazine.
Another director from private sector was AKM Kamrul Islam. He is a partner of Islam Aftab Kamrul and Co.
Former BASIC Bank managing director Kazi Fakhrul Islam has been in hiding since his dismissal along with nine senior bank officials in May 2014.
The commission, following a High Court order, interrogated Sheikh Abdul Hye Bacchu in December.
On November 8, 2017, the High Court scolded the commission for keeping only small fry in jail demonstrating pick and choose policy about corruption suspects.
Commission chairman Iqbal Mahmood said that they were scrutinising all the loans approved by the BASIC Bank board during Abdul Hye’s period.
Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Ifthekharuzzaman said that the commission should take immediate legal action against Abdul hye and other board of directors as their involvement in the loan scams was already detected in the investigation by the Bangladesh Bank.
He criticised the commission saying that Abdul Hye and other BASIC Bank directors had been interrogated following a High Court order.
The parliamentary standing committee on finance ministry on many occasions since the detection of the loan scams recommended that the commission should bring the controversial directors to justice.
Parliamentary body chairman Muhammad Abdur Razzaque said that the commission ‘mysteriously’ failed to prosecute the masterminds of the loan scams.

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