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Over Tk 30,000cr embezzled in 7 years
Wednesday, 04 May 2016

Six financial scams have taken place over the last seven years in the country. A total of almost Tk 30,000 crore was embezzled in the scams. A Padma Bridge could have been built with that amount.

A large number of people were affected from those scams. Thousands of small investors were hurt in the share market scam. Politically appointed chairmen and board directors of various banks were benefited by the embezzlement.  The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) also protected them, rather than taking action.

None of the scams were brought to justice and no one was punished. The cases are simply drawn out as some of the accused are in jail and some are relaxing in the hospitals. Some are out on bail.

Former Bangladesh Bank governor Salehuddin Ahmed and Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) executive director Iftekharuzzaman both said lack of good governance is the reason behind such financial scams. Former Bangladesh Bank deputy governor Khandkar Ibrahim Khaled told Journalists that action was not taken in the scams as people close to the government were involved.

The second largest share market scam took place in 2009, a year after the ruling Awami League came to power. Head of the probe committee investigating the scam, Khandkar Ibrahim Khaled, said the investors lost almost Tk 15,000 crore in the scam. Then almost Tk 4,500 crore was embezzled in Sonali Bank and Hall-Mark scam in 2012. Bismillah group embezzled Tk 1100 crore from Janata Bank. Almost Tk 4,500 crore was embezzled in the Basic Bank scam in 2013. Destiny Group, a multi level marketing company swindled investors of nearly Tk 4,119 crore. 

None of the accused in these cases were punished. Chairman Jesmine Islam of the Hall-mark Group is out on bail while managing director (MD) Tanvir Mahmud is in jail. Destiny Group president Rafiqul Amin is in the hospital for a long time after being arrested. Basic Bank chairman Sheikh Abdul Hye Bacchu is not even named in any case.

The Bangladesh Bank heist is the latest of the money scams in the country. A total of $81 million was stolen from the Bangladesh central bank’s accounts in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on 5 February.

Bangladesh Bank Governor Atiur Rahman was forced to resign due to this scam. Two deputy governors were also removed.

Former BB governor Salehuddin Ahmed made three recommendations to prevent such scams.  He told Journalists the accused in these cases should be punished.  The punishment should be judicial, not departmental like termination or transfer. Experts and qualified persons should be appointd where required. The members of bank boards of directors are selected through political consideration. There is question about their eligibility. The bank’s internal control must be ensured. BB has to handle banking very strictly.

He thinks that BB is in conflict with the other financial institutions. BB should have sole control over the banking sector.

The Hall-Mark scam is a glaring example of how influential people from the government are involved with the big bank scams. Senior bank officials only aided and abetted the scam. A number of board members also knew about the underhand dealings. When interrogated, Hall-Mark MD Tanvir Mahmud named bank board member and also ruling Awami League leader Saimum Sarwar as being involved in the matter. Finance minister AMA Muhith dismissed the scam as nothing big. BB also recommended changes in the board of Sonali Bank. Finance minister also said ti was not a part of their responsibility.

About the Basic Bank scam, finance minister on 8 July 2015 said, “Huge embezzlement has been done in the bank. Former Basic Bank chairman Sheikh Abdul Hye Bacchu is involved in this.”

Earlier on 30 June 2015, talking about the Hall-Mark and Basic Bank, finance minister in the parliament said, “Our own party men are a hurdle in catching the fraud.” 

Asked why action was not taken, finance minister in an interview with Journalists said, “Political matters can’t be discussed. But action will be taken surely.”

The biggest share market scam took place during the last tenure of Awami League (1996-2001). The scam case is still under trial.