The online newspaper’s chief stands accused of amassing Tk42 crore in illegal wealth
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has filed a case against bdnews24.com Editor-in-Chief Toufique Imrose Khalidi on charges of acquiring wealth beyond his known sources of income.
The graft watchdog’s Deputy Director Gulshan Anwar Pradhan filed the case with its Dhaka Integrated Office-1 on Thursday.
According to the case documents, Khalidi possesses Tk42 crore in four accounts with HSBC, Eastern Bank, Southeast Bank and Mutual Trust Bank, for which the ACC said no legal source was found.
The ACC says that investigations found that the online news outlet’s editor has accumulated the wealth through fraud by creating forged documents, an offence under Sections 27(1) of the ACC Act 2004.
On November 5, 2019, Khalidi was served with a summons to appear before the ACC over an investigation into ‘inconsistencies’ over his wealth.
The notice said that his statement was required in connection with allegations of “transferring a huge amount of money” by “hiding location” by himself and bdnews24.com, and “earning wealth inconsistent with his known income through illegal activities”.
On November 26, the commission quizzed Khalidi for nearly five hours at its Dhaka headquarters.
The bdnews24.com editor, however, has denied the allegations.
In a statement, soon after the ACC summoned him, Khalidi said, “I was never involved in any irregularity, corruption or illegal activity. I don’t possess any wealth that is inconsistent with my disclosed income.”
The ACC also interrogated LR Global’s CEO Riaz Islam in its investigation of Khalidi.
An affiliate of the New York-based LR Manager Investments, LR Global operates mutual funds in Bangladesh.
In October 2019, the stock market regulator halted the asset manager’s investment in bdnews24.com to assess the documents of the deal.
The action by the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission came following a media report that LR Global had bought Tk50 crore stake of the online newspaper.
The regulator had said it wanted to check whether the investment had been made in line with rules and asked all stakeholders to refrain from activities related to the investment.
As per rules, an asset manager can invest in listed securities, initial public offerings (IPO), pre-IPO placement shares and securities that are transferable in the money market. bdnews24.com, however, is not-listed in the capital market.
LR Global manages six closed-end mutual funds listed on the country’s bourses.
In a report on October 13, 2019, bdnews24.com said that LR Global had invested Tk50 crore to “support the expansion of news automation and creativity”.