Muktijoddha Kalyan Trust is counting losses from its Gulistan Tower Complex due to corruption of its officials, contractor of the building, influential freedom fighters and leaders of different fronts of the ruling party Awami League, probe reports unearthed.
The trust did not take action against the people involved in corruption at different levels since the 20-storey Gulistan Tower Complex was initiated in February 2001 on 0.64 acres of land by demolishing Gulistan Cinema and Naz Cinema owned by the trust, documents of the agency show.
Due to an uneven deed signed in February 2001 with contractor Western Engineers Limited, giving advantage to the latter, the trust received only Tk 21 lakh per month in monthly rents from 1,074 shops on nine of its floors and two basements, though it should be Tk 2,6260,000, trust managing director Md Iftekharul Islam Khan said.
The contract had also empowered the contractor who was to sell possessions of all shops in 18 floors of the proposed 20-storeyed tower and it fixed a monthly token rent to be collected from the landlord — the trust, he said.
‘The average monthly rent per square feet in the commercially important place like Gulistan should be at least Tk 100 when it was fixed at an average of Tk eight,’ he said.
He said that contract required the contractor to build a 1000-seat cinema hall on the 18th floor, which they did not.
The contractor left the project in 2007 after constructing 11 floors and selling all shops constructed up to eighth floor, he said.
Additionally, there are dues to be collected.
The lessees of the two basements and owners of 118 shops do not pay monthly rent to the trust respectively for 36 and 90 months, the trust officials said adding that total due was Tk 1.89 crore.
They said that war-injured freedom fighter M Rafiqul Islam, who took lease of two basements, constructed 10 shops at the first basement and 20 warehouses in the second without permission and rented those to traders who sell goods on footpaths and roads in front of the tower.
The illegal structures developed flouting Building Construction Rules 2008 blocked basement driveway on the east side, they said.
A trust-initiated probe last April identified its deputy general manager Abdul Muntaqim as the person who helped Rafiq in developing illegal shops and warehouses.
It also identified that Rafiq and his seven toll collectors were behind the illegal job.
Between November 2018 and January 2019, 13 shops on 12,000 square feet of area worth of Tk 12 crore, were developed on the 9th floor without asking for permission, finds another trust-initiated probe.
The probe identified Gulistan Complex project-in-charge and also the Kalyan Trust’s account officer Jamal Hossain Laskar, Khetabprapta, Juddhahata, Shaheed Muktijoddha Paribar Kendriya Command chairman Mahmud Parvez Jewel, an expatriate shop owner M Kamal Ali and five leaders of Bangladesh Awami Muktijoddha League behind illegal development works.
No action was taken though a probe formed by parliamentary standing committee on the liberation war affairs ministry recommended taking action against corrupt trust officials involved in signing the uneven deed with Western Engineers Limited, owned by a former BNP leader ASM Alauddin when AL was in power.
The committee, led by AL lawmaker Nurunnabi Chowdhury Shaon, found that the contractor, tampering with the original plan, built more shops encroaching on open spaces meant for corridors and parking lot.
In complicity with the corrupt officials of the trust, the parliamentary probe found, the contractor installed two lifts instead of nine shown in the original plan. The building also has no firefighting equipment and central AC.
Kalyan Trust managing director Iftekhar said departmental inquiry was initiated against its officials identified by the probes for illegal expansions but no action was taken against outsiders.
‘I requested Rajdhani Unnyayan Kartripakkhya to demolish illegal shops and warehouses from the basements of the Gulistan complex,’ he said.
He claimed that all the shop owners except for the lessees of the basements were paying rents.
‘We also filed arbitration with the High Court claiming Tk 240 crore as penalty against the contractor for not finishing the job,’ he said.
The compensation was calculated for not finishing the task on the deadline set at June 2006, according to a revised contract signed in January in the same year between the trust and the contractor, he said. The penalty for delay was set at 50,000 per day.
Contractor Alauddin said that he also filed an arbitration against the trust with the HC for selling possessions of shops when he was in hiding when the army-backed government ceased power in 2007.
‘I sold possessions of shops up to the sixth floors before going into hiding in 2007 when the military-led caretaker government took over. The trust took control of the complex in 2010 when Awami League was in power,’ Alauddin said, adding that corrupt trust officials, war-injured freedom fighters and cadres having political clouts took all the benefits and he possessed all documents to prove these.
Gulistan Complex project officer Jamal Hossain Laskar claimed that some members of the probe committee accused him of development works on the 9th floor as he had complained to the management against their corruptions.
Another accused official Muntaqim claimed that he was abroad when structures were developed at the basements.
War-injured freedom fighter M Rafiqul Islam said that he did not pay rent of about Tk 1.19 crore as he got possession of just 13,000 square feet even after signing a contract for 32,000 square feet at the basements.
‘I will pay dues if they provide space as per the contract,’ he said adding that the illegal structures would also be removed.
War-injured freedom fighter leader Mahmud Parvez said he helped Kamal to construct a shop on the 9th floor as he had purchased a shop and did not get possession in the past seven years.
‘I stopped Chhatra League and Juba League activists from further constructions,’ he claimed.
Bangladesh Muktijoddha League general secretary Sheikh TA Aslam claimed they developed offices on the 9th floor in January expecting to get permission.
Parliamentary standing committee chairman Shajahan Khan said another sub-committee was formed to find out ways to dismiss arbitrations and force all shop owners to pay rents.
Liberation war affairs minister AKM Mozammel Huq said all illegal occupiers would be evicted soon.
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