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Why is Biman marred by a litany of corruption?

  • Published at 12:45 pm April 14th, 2019
File photo of a plane Courtesy

The airline is facing corruption allegations for cargo transport, aircraft leasing, and ticket sales

The state-owned Biman Bangladesh Airlines had made profits in past years, but in the fiscal year of 2017-18, losses reached nearly Tk2 billion. 

The airline faces a litany of corruption allegations for most related sectors, such as cargo transport, aircraft leasing, and ticket sales. The reported corruption could be a major reason the national carrier was not profitable in the previous fiscal year.

Responding to a query, State Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation, Md Mahbub Ali recently said efforts have been made to transform Biman into a profitable entity.

According to sources from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Biman is facing corruption in eight sectors. ACC Commissioner Dr Md Mozammel Huq Khan had handed a probe report on graft allegations in Biman to the state minister for tourism and civil aviation.

The ministry then began a probe based on commission’s report, and found evidence of corruption in sectors such as aircraft leasing and equipment purchasing. Plus it found that there was cargo account manipulation, there were irregularities in ticket sales, and ghost vouchers were used.

Biman sources say that airline’s pre-tax profit was Tk1.51 billion in the 2016-17 fiscal year, compared to Tk1.27 billion in 2015-16. The financial statement of 2018 was not published on the pretext that the annual general meeting was not held. Later, it was revealed that in the 2017-18 fiscal year, Biman’s losses stood at Tk2.01 billion.

Rampant corruption?

Due to alleged irregularities in Biman ticket sales, two marketing officials were made Officer on Special Duty (OSD). The officials are acting head of marketing, Ashraful Alam, and Biman’s former London country manager, Shafiqul Islam.

Shafiqul allegedly embezzled Tk160 million from the sale of 2,500 tickets. Meanwhile, Ashraful Alam is accused of blocking seats from travel agencies, and making money off this arrangement. The report further states that there is evidence of corruption in the appointment of General Sales Agents (GSA).

When a flight is delayed, regulations dictate that waiting passengers must be given hotel rooms for temporary accommodation. However, the commission found evidence of falsely-prepared hotel bills.

In 2014, Biman leased two planes from Egypt Air for five years. However, Biman is reportedly incurring losses of around Tk100 million every month since the lease.

State Minister for Tourism and Aviation, Md Mahbub Ali, says: “Several steps have already been taken to transform Biman into a profitable organisation, and more measures are on the cards. Legal action will be taken against those who are involved in corruption.

“Those involved with corruption in Biman Bangladesh Airline will not be spared.”

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