ACC probe not on right track: HC

M Moneruzzaman | Published at 12:23am on March 03, 2021

The High Court on Tuesday severely censured the Anti-Corruption Commission for its failure to complete the investigation into any of the 61 cases, filed in 2015 over the misappropriation of more than Tk 3,000 crore from different branches of the state-owned BASIC Bank.

The online bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman expressed its deep disappointment in the lack of progress of the probe into the BASIC Bank scam at the bail hearing of Mohammad Ali, former general manager of the bank’s Shantinagar branch in the capital.

The court granted Mohammad Ali bail in one of the seven cases against him on the consideration that he had been in jail for nearly 19 months without trial.    

Mohammad Ali was accused in the seven cases filed with the Paltan police station on September 23, 2015 over the misappropriation of more than Tk 362 crore from the bank’s Shantinagar branch.

The court set March 9 for the hearing of his bail prayers in other six cases as the anti-graft commission sought time to report to the court on the update of those cases.

ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan told the court that the commission did not sit idle as it had recorded statements of 2,500 persons in the 61 cases while the statements from 314 persons had been examined in the seven cases.

‘But the outcome is that you couldn’t submit charge sheets in five years,’ the court said.

Khurshid told the court that the ACC was taking time in completing the probe as it was yet to locate and recover the misappropriated money as recommended by the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering.  

The court observed that the probe was not on the right track if the commission went by the principle that ‘no embezzlement case can be proved unless the embezzled money is located and recovered’.

The court went on that  recovering money was required in money laundering cases but it was not essential in cases over embezzlement of funds from banks or financial institutions.

‘You have filed hundreds of cases relating to misappropriation of money and abuse of power leading to punishment of many of the accused, but I have never heard in 20 years as a lawyer and 10 years as a judge that the ACC has recovered misappropriated money to prove such cases,’ the court told the ACC.      

‘You can continue the BASIC Bank scam probe for an indefinite period of time but we have nothing to say,’ the court told the ACC when its lawyer sought a directive to submit charge sheets in the scam cases without locating and recovering the money embezzled.

Earlier, on May 31, 2018, the High Court bench while granting bail to Fazlus Sobhan, one of the 102 accused in the BASIC Bank loan scam cases, said that the commission’s utter failure to complete the probe in accordance with the court’s observations was tantamount to demeaning and flouting the orders of the court.

The court earlier, while granting bail to another accused Siphar Ahmed, had reprimanded the commission for taking no tangible action against the main perpetrators — former BASIC Bank chairman Sheikh Abdul Hye Bacchu, his accomplices and the board of directors of the BASIC Bank — until then.

The HC bench said that it was deplorable that the ACC was only booking a petty officer like Siphar.

Lawyer Zainul Abedin, assisted by Sagir Hossain Leon, appeared for accused Mohammad Ali.