Bangladesh anti-graft-agency files charges in decade-old embezzlement case

Ahammad Foyez
Bangladesh anti-graft-agency files charges in decade-old embezzlement case People walk outside the gates of the headquarters of the Anti-Corruption Commission in Dhaka, Jan. 31, 2023.

Bangladesh’s anti-corruption agency on Monday charged 146 people, including a top bank official said to be close to the ruling party, for the alleged embezzlement of U.S. $209 million from BASIC Bank.

The announcement by the Anti-Corruption Commission marked the first time it had tied Sheikh Abdul Hye Bachchu, the former chairman of the state-run bank, to the alleged fraud in the decade-old investigation. The agency was heavily criticized over the years for not investigating Bachchu despite more than 50 cases against him. 

“The charges have been approved in a board meeting today. Investigation officers will submit the reports to the court shortly,” Md. Mahbub Hossain, secretary of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), told the media.

Of those charged, 46 are bank officials and 101 are borrowers, he said.

“BASIC Bank’s [former] Chairman Bachchu and [former] Company Secretary Shah Alam Bhuiyan have been accused in 58 cases,” Mahbub added, about the cases that were filed against the two bankers in 2015.

BenarNews contacted Bachchu but he declined to comment.

Opposition members had alleged that the ACC had ignored investigating Bachchu, a former Jatiya Party lawmaker, because of his alleged close links with the ruling Awami League party. 

Bachchu was appointed as BASIC bank’s chairman in 2009 by the Awami League government, led by Sheikh Hasina. His appointment was renewed in 2012, but he resigned under pressure in 2014 after allegations about a huge loan scam had surfaced a year earlier.

In 2013, the ACC received an investigation report from the country’s central bank about the embezzlement of around $415.4 million between 2009 and 2013 from BASIC Bank. In February this year, the ACC informed the High Court that aside from $209 million, the remaining money had been recovered.

The accused persons embezzled through issuing bank loans in favor of fake institutions for non-existent mortgages, ACC officials explained.

Bachchu is the only member of the bank’s board of directors who has been charged. 

According to ACC Secretary Mahbub, the reason for that is all the loans disbursed were signed by Bachchu, former Company Secretary Shah Alam and former Managing Directors A.K.M. Sajedur Rahman and Kazi Faqurul Islam.

“No loan proposal has signatures of any board members. These were done without informing the board members,” Mahbub said.

“Even if there was a board meeting, Bachchu would hand over his working papers to the board members the night before the meeting or in the morning so that no board member could look at it.”

This was done despite a rule that the minutes of meetings had to be given to board members at least seven days earlier, Mahbub said.

In November 2022, the High Court gave the ACC three months to complete the investigation into the BASIC Bank loan scam. The court ordered the agency to prepare its investigation report and submit it to the trial court within that time.

Back then, the court also expressed disappointment that the anti-graft agency had failed to submit the charge sheet in a case that involved such a huge sum being embezzled.

Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, said it was a positive development that the charge sheet was finally being filed, although this had taken a long time.

“However, why the name of any other board members at that time did not come up should be investigated during the judicial process,” he told BenarNews.


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