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12 June, 2018 09:24 AM Source: The Daily Star Bangladesh
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The High Court has found no tangible progress in the investigation into the cases filed over the loan scam of BASIC Bank in the last two and a half years although it repeatedly directed the Anti-Corruption Commission to carry out a fair probe.

In a verdict, the HC also said the anti-graft body has utterly failed to comply with the observations made by the country's highest court, which is tantamount to demeaning and flouting its orders.

Once a healthy state bank, BASIC has been destroyed as around Tk 4,500 crore was siphoned out between 2009 and 2013. It triggered a huge outcry when a Bangladesh Bank enquiry disclosed the loan scam.

The ACC filed as many as 56 cases two and a half years ago over the loan scam. But it did not sue former BASIC Bank chairman Sheikh Abdul Hye Bacchu and members of the board, drawing huge criticism for its selective actions.

 

The observations in the HC verdict indicate the cases seem to be going nowhere.

The HC bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Shahidul Karim on May 31 delivered the verdict on the bail petitions filed by Fazlus Sobhan, former deputy managing director of BASIC Bank, in connection with six loan scam cases against him. The full text of the judgment was released yesterday.

The bench granted him bail in the six cases on the ground of long delay in the investigation into the cases.

When his attention was drawn to the HC finding that there is no real progress in the probe, ACC Secretary Dr Shamsul Arefin yesterday said the investigation into the 56 cases is going on. "Right now, it's not possible to say how much progress investigators have made."

Contacted, ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam told The Daily Star that the anti-graft body has accepted the HC observations and directives seriously.

As a statutory body, he said, the ACC is bound to execute the HC directives and observations. He hoped the investigation officers of the Commission can complete the investigations into the Basic Bank loan scam cases within a very short time.

What the ACC lawyer claimed does not match with the reality. In the verdict, the HC described how its directives and observations in past years were ignored by the Commission.

Following a petition filed in 2016, the HC said, "We are constrained to hold that prima facie the members of the board of directors, its chairman and managing director of the bank actively aided and facilitated the other accused in misappropriating the huge amount of public money and as such in the interest of fair investigation and justice they should be brought to book.

“Thus, we direct the Anti-Corruption Commission to bring the members of the board of directors, its chairman and managing director, who approved the alleged loan despite the objection raised by the credit committee in sanctioning loan in favour of the loanees, to book."

The HC also directed the ACC to complete the investigation within a period of 60 working days from the date of receipt of this order. But the Commission did not comply with the directives.

Therefore, the HC, following another petition filed in 2017, said: "It is deplorable to note that no tangible action has yet been launched against the then chairman of BASIC Bank, namely Sheikh Abdul Hye Bacchu and his other companions, who were responsible for looking after the affairs of the bank concerned, in spite of making such direct allegation against them by a petty officer like the accused petitioner [Fazlus Sobhan].

"As such, for the sake of fair play as well as for securing ends of justice we direct the Anti-Corruption Commission take appropriate measures to bring the real culprits to book who made a profitable bank into a losing concern.”

The role of ACC irked the HC. In 2017, the court observed: "The conduct of the ACC raises serious questions as to its neutrality, fairness and sincerity in dealing with the BASIC Bank loan scam."

Annoyed by the non-compliance with its directives, the HC summoned the ACC investigators who are probing the loan scam to appear before it on May 30 with all relevant documents. In their presence, the HC held the hearing on the bail petition filed by Fazlus Sobhan.

During the hearing, the HC expressed utmost dissatisfaction and disappointment with the ACC for the long delay in completing investigations in the cases over BASIC Bank loan scams.

"We have given so many directives and made observations on this issue. But those have not been implemented properly,” the HC told the ACC lawyers.

“We have to cover our faces with black cloth in shame ... The commission could not submit the charge sheet to the trial court in any of the 56 cases filed two and a half years back over the BASIC Bank loan scams.”

Since December last year, the ACC has quizzed Bacchu over the loan scams on several occasions.

According to a Bangladesh Bank enquiry, he chaired the board of the bank when around Tk 4,500 crore was siphoned out.

Kazi Faqurul Islam, the then managing director of the bank, was removed on May 25, 2014 over his alleged involvement in the financial scam.

Bacchu resigned as the chairman on July 5 that year amid growing allegations that he misappropriated funds by approving shady loans of several thousand crores of taka.

On July 14, 2014, the BB gave the ACC a report on the BASIC Bank scam, detailing how money was embezzled from that bank through fake companies and dubious accounts.

Besides, Finance Minister AMA Muhith on several occasions expressed anger in parliament as he could not take steps against all involved in the scams in BASIC Bank.

On February 24, 2016, he told the House that 27 bank officials, 56 organisations and eight surveyor firms were involved in the BASIC Bank loan scams.

He also said external audit firms appointed by the BB and BASIC Bank detected involvement of Bacchu and the then board members in granting irregular loans.

The central bank found that Bacchu illegally influenced all the activities of the bank, leaving it in a grave state.

On July 26 last year, the HC directed the ACC to probe the alleged involvement of Bacchu and board members of the bank in the scams. But Bacchu still remains out of touch.

CASE AGAINST FOZLUS
Fazlus was made accused in 48 cases filed by the ACC. He was the chairman of credit and loan disbursement committees. Arrested in the cases, he has been in jail since 2016 without trial.

However, the HC said his bail will be cancelled at any stage of the case, if he misuses the privilege of bail in any manner in accordance with law.

The accused petitioner will not be allowed go abroad without the permission of the concerned court, the HC said.

Shakhawat Liton and Ashutosh Sarkar

 

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