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Is the ACC aiming for big fish?

  • Published at 12:26 am April 25th, 2018
  • Last updated at 12:36 am April 25th, 2018
Is the ACC aiming for big fish?
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is probing claims of corruption levelled against several elite figures such as top businessmen, senior government officials and influential politicians including current and former members of parliament. Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya, ACC assistant director (public relations), said the commission has begun its investigations based on “substantial allegations” involving money laundering, bribe-taking, wealth amassed from undisclosed sources, and tax evasion. It follows a strong message from ACC Chairman Iqbal Mahmood, who threw down the gauntlet to the corrupt high-ups recently when pledging to bring them to trial “sooner or later”, and by underscoring the commission’s zero tolerance rule against corruption. Sources in the commission said former home minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir - who resigned last year from the chairmanship of Farmers Bank - is among those being investigated, after Bangladesh Bank found massive irregularities in the bank’s loan disbursement, along with a large number of default loans, in 2017. Several ruling party lawmakers are also among those under the ACC scanner. Justice Kazi Ebadul Haque, vice president of the civil society platform Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Sujan), said the current crackdown by the ACC is being viewed positively. “If the anti-graft body investigates corrupt people and takes legal action against them, the nation will appreciate them,” he said. “The organization must deal evenhandedly against all corrupt people and not fall prey to any outside influence.” According to the ACC’s 2017 annual report, the number of allegations sent to the commission rose by 38% last year, to around 8,000. However, the number of suspects detained by the ACC fell, to 182 in 2017 from 388 in 2016. Of these, 84 were government officials, 25 were bank officials, 13 were lawmakers, 10 were from other financial sectors and 50 were from various other professions including business. “We did not want to hassle people without reasonable complaints (so) we have scrutinized the allegations properly,” ACC Chairman Iqbal Mahmood told the press after submitting the annual report to President Abdul Hamid. This claim of due diligence is also borne out in the conviction figures: the ACC filed 273 cases with a 68% conviction rate in 2017, compared to 359 cases with only a 54% conviction rate in 2016.

Whip, ruling party MPs

The anti-graft body has already looked into the financial affairs of former state minister of public works and housing, Abdul Mannan Khan; the former state minister for water resources and Patuakhali 4 MP, Mahbubur Rahman; and Abdur Rahman Bodi from Cox’s Bazar 4. The Awami League MPs now coming under the ACC scanner are parliament whip and Sherpur 1 MP, Md Atiur Rahman Atik; Khulna 2 MP Mizanur Rahman; AL central Organizing Secretary and Shariatpur 1 MP, ABM Mozammel Haque; Narayanganj 2 MP Nazrul Islam Babu; and Jhalakathi 1 MP Bazlul Haque Harun. The ACC interrogated Md Atiur Rahman Atik on April 17. Mizanur Rahman, from Khulna 2, told journalists after interrogation by ACC on April 16 that false allegations had been brought against him. “I don’t know who they are, but they are very powerful,” he said. “They have a conspiracy against me.” Bazlul Haque Harun, who also sits on the board of Premier Bank, has sought two months from the ACC after having been served a notice to appear for interrogation. He is implicated in the embezzlement of Tk134 crore.

BNP leaders

While BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia languishes in jail after being convicted in a corruption case filed by the ACC, several allegations made against other top BNP leaders are now being probed by the commission. They include the standing committee members Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Mirza Abbas, Nazrul Islam Khan, Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, Vice-Chairmen M Morshed Khan and Abdul Awal Mintoo, Joint Secretary General Habibun Nabi Khan Sohel, and Executive Member Tabith Awal. Morshed Khan’s son, Faisal Morshed Khan, and Dhaka Bank Managing Director Syed Mahbubur Rahman are also under investigation. The ACC has inquired with several banks about suspicious transactions worth Tk125 crore made over a period of 30 days from the accounts of these men. Meanwhile, former BNP MP from Lalmonirhat, Asadul Habib Dulu, and former MP from Natore, Ruhul Quddus Dulu, are also being investigated for corruption. Jatiya Party and independent From the Jatiya Party, the MP for Mymensingh 5 Salah uddin Ahmed Mukti, Jaiya party MP (reserved female seat) Mehjabin Morshed, and independent MP for Narsingdi 2, Kamrul Ashraf Khan, are all under investigation. According to ACC sources, Kamrul has earned Tk100 crore in the past 10 years through an illegal fertilizer business, while Mizanur Rahman earned Tk800 crore allegedly through an illegal drug business and tender bungling.

Businesses

The ACC is looking into the financial affairs of AK Azad, who is a former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) and chairman and managing director of Ha-Meem Group. He also owns two media outlets in Bangladesh - Dainik Samakal and the cable TV Channel 24. The ACC took the initiative to investigate his assets in October 2017 following an allegation that he accumulated a vast amount of illegal wealth by evading taxes. The ACC arrested Farmers Bank’s former Audit Committee chairman, Mahabubul Haque Chisty, in connection with embezzlement and irregularities in loan disbursement there. Faridur Rahman Khan, managing director of United Hospital in Dhaka, was also investigated by the ACC over corruption of Tk21 crore tax evasion. Meanwhile, former BASIC Bank Ltd chairman Sheikh Abdul Hye Bachchu was interrogated several times by the commission in connection with embezzlement of funds from the state-run bank.

Government officials

This month, the ACC arrested two government officials on corruption charges. Kutubuddin Ahmed, the personal officer (PO) of the Land Ministry, was arrested on charges of involvement in a grabbing a 10 Katha Rajuk land in Gulshan. The commission arrested SM Nazmul Haque, chief engineer of the Shipping Department, after he was caught red handed taking a Tk5 lakh bribe on April 12. It also filed a case against an additional chief engineer of Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) for allegedly misappropriating Tk7.2 lakh. KM Humayun Kabir allegedly falsely created four vacant posts for guards and peons in a pilot project named “Dredging of River Systems in Bangladesh (first phase)” to misappropriate 18 months worth of salaries, ACC sources said.