LOOKING BACK: 5 YEARS OF AL GOVT
Law makes ACC less powerfulAhammad Foyez
The Awami League, which pledge more empowerment of the Anti-Corruption to curb corruption, in reality has made the commission almost ‘powerless’ during its five years in office, especially with the latest amendment to the related law.
In response to the amendment, the corruption watchdogs said that during the five years of the Awami League government, the commission had virtually turned from being a ‘toothless tiger’ into a ‘toothless cat’ although the government had pledged in its 2008 elections manifesto that ‘multi-pronged measures to fight corruption will be put in place.’
In June 2013, on his last day in office, the Anti-Corruption Commission’s immediate-past chairman Ghulam Rahman said that the commission was a toothless tiger and that it had not grown claws or teeth even after four years of its operation.
Before the 2008 general elections, the government pledged that an ‘effective action against corruption’ would be taken. ‘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, loan defaulters, tender manipulators and users of muscle power in every sphere of the state and society.
The government has failed to live up to all its promises although in some cases, powerful business men have been questioned or charged with offences.
The government was seriously criticised in November 2013 as the parliament passed the Anti-Corruption Commission (Amendment) Bill, which included a provision requiring the commission to obtain permission from the government for filing cases against public servants.
The commission’s chairman M Badiuzzman said that the newly passed law contradicted Article 27 of the constitution which states: ‘All the citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.’
The legislation also includes another controversial provision which states that commission investigators could face between two- to five-year jail sentences for mistakes in investigations causing undue trouble to anyone.
After the law was passed, the Transparency International, Bangladesh described the commission as a toothless cat.
The commission has been involved in the past five years in the investigation of some big financial scams and scandals
In the case of the alleged Padma Bridge project corruption scandal, the commission interrogated former communications minister Syed Abul Hossain three times in connection with his suspected involvement.
The commission finally lodged a case on December 17, 2013, excluding Abul Hosain and former state minister for foreign affairs Abul Hasan Chowdhury, another suspect.
The commission is yet to complete its investigation while the Canadian police frame charges against Abul Hasan Chowdhury.
The commission said that Abul Hossain and Abul Hasan were still on the list of suspects.
An inquiry team member said that Abul Hossain and former Bridges Division secretary Mosharraf Hossain had attended a meeting with Mohammad Mostafa, deputy managing director of Engineering and Planning Consultants Ltd, a local sub-agent of the 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, on June 19, 2011 the Bangladesh Bridges Authority 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 Bridges Authority Kazi Mohammad Ferdous in connection with ‘corruption conspiracy’ in the Padma Bridge project.
All the people are now on bail and Mosharraf Hossain has now taken up his earlier position.
On June 29, 2012, 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.
Another case in which the ACC carried out investigation concerned the railway minister.
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; and Azam, who went into hiding, later gave a television interview in which he stated that he had in his car Tk 74 lakh and he was headed for the minister’s at Jigatola in the capital After an inquiry, the commission gave Suranjit a clean chit although it did not even question him.
The commission did later start investigating the personal wealth of some people working in the railways.
In the Hallmark-Sonali Bank scam, the commission also failed to find involvement of the prime minister’s health affairs adviser Syed Modasser Ali.
A parliamentary investigation committee on November 7, 2012 found the frequent visits made by Modasser to the Sonali Bank branch at the Ruposhi Bangla Hotel 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.
After a one-year investigation, the commission submitted charge sheets in 11 cases against 25 people including the Hallmark managing director, Tanvir Mahmud, and Sonali Bank’s former managing director Humayun Kabir.
On October 4, 2012, the commission filed 11 cases against seven executives of the Hallmark Group and 20 officials of Sonali Bank.
In the Destiny scam, it was alleged that officials illegally misappropriated money from the company’s bank accounts.
The commission filed two cases against 22 senior executives of 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.
The probe team is likely to submit its report to the commission within this week, an commissioner said.
After the cases had been filed, the commission arrested M Harun-ur-Rashid and Mohammad Rafiqul Amin.
The commission was also involved in retuning money from Singapore which was allegedly laundered by Arafat Rahman, the youngest son of the BNP chairperson, Khaleda Zia.
On January 3, 2013, the commission received Tk 15 lakh in interest on about Tk 12.28 crore laundered by Arafat and recovered by the commission. Later in the year, it received a second installment.
The commission had received the money from an account kept with the Sonali Bank.
The commission in July 2013 tried to give about Tk 1.3 crore to Ferdous Ahmed Khan, a special assistant to the prime minister, as a ‘reward’ as he had helped in the recovery of Tk 13.15 crore in 2012 that Arafat is said to have siphoned off to Singapore.
The money disbursement was stopped after the publication of a report in New Age.
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