4 YEARS OF GOVT
Govt, ACC in question over big scamsAhammad Foyez
Big scams involving Padma Bridge project, railway, Hallmark and Destiny spotted in 2012 have questioned the transparency and credibility of the Awami League government.
What is more alarming is that some ministers and high government officials were found involved in at least three such scams although the Anti-Corruption Commission inquiries failed to catch big shots.
The Anti-Corruption Commission’s seemingly compromising stand on arresting ministers or advisers and ordinary people who are suspects in the cases have questioned the sincerity of the commission in curbing corruption. The commission has, rather, brushed aside all criticisms about its bias and transparency.
In the case of the Padma Bridge project corruption, the commission interrogated former communications minister Syed Abul Hossain three times in connection with his suspected involvement in the scam.
The commission finally lodged a case on December 17, excluding Syed Abul and former state minister for foreign affairs Abul Hasan Chowdhury, another suspect.
The commission said that Abul Hossain and Abul Hasan were still on the list of suspects.
Its inquiry team said that Abul Hossain and former Bridge Division secretary Mosharraf Hossain, now an officer on special duty and arrested, had attended a meeting with Mohammad Mostafa, deputy managing director of Engineering and Planning Consultants Ltd, a local sub-agent of Canada-based SNC-Lavalin, and the then officials of SNC-Lavalin Ramesh Shah and Kevin Wallace on May 29, 2011 in Dhaka.
After the meeting, the Bangladesh Bridge Authority on June 19, 2011 made recommendations to give the work to SNC-Lavailn before completing the evaluation work.
The inquiry team said that Abul Hossain had met some representatives of SNC-Lavalin and other companies in various stages of the tender process.
‘SNC-Lavalin officials met Abul Hossain with the help of Abul Hasan,’ an inquiry team member said.
The inquiry team said that Abul Hossain, Abul Hasan and others were named in a diary of Ramesh.
The commission on December 25, 2012, arrested Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan and superintendent engineer of the Bangladesh Bridge Authority Kazi Mohammad Ferdous in connection with ‘corruption conspiracy’ in Padma Bridge project.
On June 29, the World Bank cancelled its credit for the construction of the Padma Bridge after it had found ‘credible evidence’ of corruption by high-level government functionaries in awarding SNC-Lavalin the contract for the project’s supervision.
In the railway scam, the commission started an
inquiry on April 9, 2012. Ali Azam, driver of Omar Faruq Talukder, assistant private secretary to the then railway minister Suranjit Sengupta, drove a microbus carrying Faruq and railway officials Yusuf Ali Mridha and Enamul Huq straight into the Border Guard Bangladesh headquarters in the capital and shouted at the guards saying that there was illegal money in the vehicle.
The money was reportedly headed for Suranjit’s house but the commission filed to find his involvement in the scam.
The commission, meanwhile, after an inquiry gave Suranjit a clean chit although it did not even interrogate him.
The commission later started investigating personal wealth of some people and corruption in the railway.
The commission filed three cases against Faruq, Mridha and Enamul for their illegal wealth and six cases against three railway officials, including Yusuf Ali Mridha, for alleged corruption in railway recruitment.
Azam made a sudden appearance on October 4 claiming in a television interview that the microbus he was driving with Tk 74 lakh was headed for Suranjit’s house at Jhigatola in the capital.
In the Hallmark-Sonali Bank scam, the commission also failed to find the involvement the prime minister’s health affairs adviser Syed Modasser Ali.
A parliamentary investigation committee on November 7 found frequent visits to the Sonali Bank branch at the Ruposhi Bangla Hotel by Modasser to be ‘quite unusual.’
It is quite unusual and unbecoming of an adviser holding the rank of a cabinet minister to have visited a bank branch, committee members said.
The committee summoned Modasser to a hearing at the national assembly complex.
The commission on October 4 filed 11 cases against seven officials of the Hallmark Group, including Hallmark managing director Tanvir Mahmud, and 20 officials, including Sonali Bank’s former managing director Humayun Kabir.
In the Destiny scam, the commission on July 30 filed two cases against 22 senior executives of the Destiny 2000, including its president M Harun-ur-Rashid, also a former army chief, and managing director Mohammad Rafiqul Amin for allegedly laundering about Tk 3,285 crore.
Commission officials found that only Tk 56 lakh was left in the accounts of Destiny Multipurpose Cooperative Society Limited after its officials illegally had withdrawn the large amount of money.
The commission also found that the accused had left with only Tk 4.87 crore in the accounts of Destiny Tree Plantation Limited.
According to the commission findings, 11 top officials of Destiny 2000 illegally misappropriated money from the bank accounts.
The findings revealed that Harun-ur-Rashid had drawn Tk 1397.96 lakh, Rafiqul Amin and his wife Farah Deeba jointly Tk 7327.33 lakh and directors Mohammad Hossain Tk 189.84 lakh, Md Gofranul Haque Tk 8304.6 lakh, Mohammad Saidur Rahman Tk 16744.35 lakh, Mohammad Mezbah Uddin Tk 7420.93 lakh, Tayebur Rahman and Salina Rahman Tk 3077.26 lakh, Syed Sajjad Hossain Tk 1613.06 lakh, Irfan Ahmed Sani Tk 70.673 lakh, Jomshed Ara Chowdhury Tk 1821.31 lakh, Nepal Chandra Biswas and Mitu Rani Biswas Tk 3368.403 lakh.
After the cases were filed, the commission had arrested some big shots of Destiny, including M Harun-ur-Rashid and Mohammad Rafiqul Amin. The commission is yet complete the investigation.
The Awami League before the 2008 general elections promised an ‘effective action against corruption’ saying that ‘multi-pronged measures to fight corruption will be put in place. Powerful people will have to submit wealth statement annually. Strict measures will be taken to eliminate bribe, extortion, rent seeking and corruption.’
The Awami League also promised measures against people having unearned and undisclosed money, against loan defaulters, tender manipulators, and users of muscle power in every stage of the state and society. All the promises belied the ground reality.
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