Bangladesh

Laundering Tk 236 Crore: ACC sues 23

The Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday filed three cases against 23 people, including former AB Bank chairman M Wahidul Haque, for their alleged involvement in laundering about Tk 236 crore to the USA, the UAE and Singapore.

The cases were filed following an enquiry for about three and a half years, said ACC sources.

In another development, the anti-graft watchdog yesterday sought information on the wealth of arrested Monir Hossain alias "Golden Monir" and his wife Raushan Akhter.

The ACC in two of the three cases sued 23 people while 21 were made accused in the other.

According to the case statements, three companies -- Semacity General Trading LLC, ATZ Communications Pte Ltd and Euro Cars Holdings Pte Ltd -- which only exist on papers, applied for loans from the private bank's offshore banking unit (OBU) in Chattogram.

Semacity, which claims to be a general trading company, is owned by UAE citizen Fatima Abdulla Mohammad Al Karrani and Bangladesh-born Canadian citizen ANM Tayebur Rashid, the statements say.

Rashid is also a co-owner of First Manhattan Energy Co situated in Chattogram. His business partner Bimal Raj Bastula is a Nepal-born US citizen. Rashid had a current account with AB Bank's OBU. He applied for a loan of $20 million to the bank on May 03, 2015 for selling bitumen to KTM, a Nepalese company. Semacity and KTM had signed a contract in this regard.

According to the contract, Semacity would buy bitumen from the UAE and then sell it to KTM in Nepal.

Without examining the loan repayment ability of Semacity, the board of AB Bank, chaired by Wahidul, sanctioned a $15 million loan on June 28, 2015, according to the case statements.

The money was credited to Semacity's current account on June 29, 2015. Upon the request of Rashid, the bank later transferred the money to the account of First Manhattan Energy Co on June 30 that year.

From First Manhattan's OBU account, about $4.5 million was transferred to Shook and Book LLP in Singapore on March 31, 2016, about $1.2 million to First Manhattan's USA account and the rest of the money was returned to Semacity's OBU account.

Semacity then applied for another loan of $14.5 million. Though Semacity had not repaid the first loan, the then top AB Bank officials sanctioned the new loan.

The money was later transferred to different bank accounts in the UAE and the USA, added the case statements.

The bank officials failed to show any document to prove whether Semacity bought and sold bitumen with the money. To date, only $9.4 million has been repaid.

"It appears that they laundered the rest of the money," reads the first information report of one of the cases.

In the similar way, ATZ Communications Pte Ltd and Euro Cars Holdings Pte Ltd were given loans of $10 million and $14.4 million respectively between 2014 and 2016 by AB Bank's OBU.

To date, $6.44 million has been repaid. Rest of the money has been laundered, say the case statements.

Using Semacity $20.1 million or Tk 160.8 crore was laundered, using Euro Cars $7.55 million or Tk 60.4 crore was laundered and using ATZ Communications $1.86 million or Tk 14.88 crore was laundered, according to the statements.

This correspondent sent him text messages, which were not answered either.

Former foreign minister and BNP leader M Morshed Khan, sponsor shareholder of the bank, nominated Wahidul as a director of the bank on December 12, 2007.

Wahidul became the bank's chairman in July 2008 and held the post till December 2017.

'GOLDEN MONIR'

In a notice issued yesterday, the ACC asked Monir to submit information about his own and dependants' movable and immovable properties as well as the undeclared properties that they have acquired since 2009, said ACC Secretary Dilwar Bakth.

Earlier, the anti-graft watchdog conducted a primary enquiry and found that Monir possesses wealth worth over Tk 600 crore. The ACC has asked Monir to submit the wealth statements within 21 working days, according to the notice.

It also said that action would be taken against them under the ACC act if they failed to submit the statements within the stipulated time or if they provided the commission with false information.

Monir was arrested by the Rab following a raid on his home in the capital's Badda on November 21. A Rab team recovered foreign currencies of 10 countries worth around Tk 9 lakh, 600 tolas of gold ornaments, Tk 1.09 crore in cash and five SUVs during the raid.

The Rab claimed the arrestee amassed wealth worth over Tk 1,050 crore through forging Rajuk documents, gold smuggling and other crimes and owns at least 200 plots in Badda, Nikunja, and other areas of the city and also in Keraniganj.

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