The Anti-Corruption Commission failed to complete in six years its probes into the embezzlement of Tk 1,500 crore by the Hallmark Group from 120 branches of 37 banks.
ACC officials told New Age that the 37 banks had funded the back-to-back letters of credit the Hallmark Group underwritten by the state-run Sonali Bank’s Hotel Sheraton branch between 2009 and 2012.
Though the huge amount was not funded by the Sonali Bank, the state–run bank bears the full responsibility for the credit extended to the Hallmark Group to fund its LCs, they said.
A six-member inquiry team led by ACC director Mir Joynul Abedin Shibli held no inquiries into the huge defalcation over the last two years as the ACC’s top brass showed no interests to complete the probes for ‘unknown reasons.’
Also for unknown reasons, some of the team members were either transferred to other sections or given promotions, they said.
The amount was extended as credit to the Hallmark Group, by seven state-run
banks, five foreign banks and 25 private banks.
The lenders included, state-run Janata Bank, Agrani Bank, Rupali Bank, BASIC Bank, Bangladesh Krishi Bank, Bangladesh Development Bank, three other branches of Sonali Bank and foreign banks- the State Bank of India, National Bank of Pakistan, the Standard Chartered, the Bank Al-Falah the HSBC and 25 local private banks.
ACC secretary Shamsul Arefin told New Age that the investigators were working hard but completing the probes into ‘the non-funded part’ would take time as so many local and foreign banks did the lending through the Sonali Bank.
In April 2014, the ACC had stopped the probes on the plea that a series of correspondence were taking place among Bangladesh Bank, Sonali Bank and the ACC.
Three months later, the ACC re-started the probes after receiving Sonali Bank’s internal probe report on the series of defalcations, said ACC officials.
The Hallmark Group had borrowed Taka 3,700 crore, including Tk 2,200 crore from the Sonali Bank’s Hotel Sheraton branch to fund its LCs and Tk1,500 crore from the others to fund back-to back LCs underwritten by the Sonali Bank.
On October 7, 2013, the ACC submitted the charge sheet against 25 officials of Sonali Bank and the Hallmark Group.
The ACC began the probes in 2012.
The ACC on October 4, 2012 filed 11 cases with the Ramna police against seven officials of the Hallmark Group including its managing director Tanvir Mahamud and 20 Sonali Bank officials including former managing director Humayun Kabir on charge of swindling around Tk 2,000 crore from the Sonali Bank’s Hotel Sheraton branch.
Later, the ACC arrested Tanvir, Hallmark Group general manager Tusher Ahmed and its chairman and Tanvir’s wife Jesmin Islam.
Only Tanvir and Tusher are in jail custody while Jesmin is free on bail.
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