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Burglaries at SB branches worry govt

Bank asked to take preventive steps

Staff Correspondent

The government has instructed Sonali Bank to inform the police about the shop owners, tenants and others living or having business in the area where its branches are located.
The step followed several incidents burglary and embezzlement of millions of Taka from Sonali Bank branches over past few years.
Bank and financial institution division secretary M Aslam Alam gave the directive during a meeting with top officials of the state-owned commercial and specialised banks amid growing concern in the government over repeated incidents of burglary in bank branches.  
The meeting was convened in the wake of the latest such incident on March 8, when burglars made off with Tk 32 lakh from at a branch of Sonali Bank located at Alamdhigi in Bogra.
Alam told reporters after the meeting that they had no option but to take such measures. ‘We do not know who is good or who is bad,’ he said adding that ‘good people’ need not worry about what is viewed as an unusual move as it cause harassment of innocent people by the police.
He expressed disappointment with the banks’ security system. The progress made in implementation of the Bangladersh Bank’s directive was unsatisfactory, he said.    
Alam said a six-member committee headed by an additional secretary had also been formed to oversee execution of the directives, including keeping the vaults and ‘chests’ well-protected by concrete walls, installation of special alarm bells to check entry of
unauthorised persons and closed circuit camera at vaults and shifting of ‘chest’ branches to the bank’s own establishments from rented houses.
The committee was also asked to submit a report in two months.   
The Bangladesh Bank on Monday evening issued a letter to Sonali Bank for ensuring security of all of its branches.
It asked the bank to engage engineers of the public works department and fire service, if necessary, to assess the structural security of the branches.     
On Sunday, The bank and financial institution division directed Sonali Bank to suspend three of its officers after the latest burglary. The officers suspended are – the branch manager, the deputy general manager and the
general manager concerned.
SB managing director Pradip Kumar who attended the meeting told reporters that the bank seemed to have become a prime target of burglars because it was handling large funds, including the government treasury function.
He said they would pay special attention to the bank’s more than 800 branches which were located in rented houses and on the ground floors. The bank will put up concrete boundaries in next 15 days for the branches housed on ground floors.
In the earlier such incident, miscreants had dug out a tunnel into the vault of the main branch of the SB in Kishoreganj and took away Tk 16.4 crore on January 25.
Sonali Bank, the largest state-owned bank with 1,200 branches across the country, has been facing an image crisis since the embezzlement of Tk 3,600 crore from its Rupashi Bangla hotel branch by Hallmark Group in 2012.      
In yet another incident, crackers broke into the Sonali Bank computer network and transferred $250,000 to a bank account in Turkey in September 2013 when the bank’s corporate branch at Shilpa Bhaban in Dhaka was transferring the money to the United Kingdom on behalf of a client in Bangladesh.

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