The commission claims that it is imperative for all candidates to disclose information about their wealth -- both in the country and abroad
With just a few more days left for the city corporation elections on February 1, new allegations are being made against Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) mayoral aspirant Tabith Awal.
The BNP-backed candidate has failed to disclose information regarding two of his business establishments abroad in the affidavit containing details of his wealth, submitted to the Election Commission (EC).
According to investigations carried out by Bangla Tribune, Tabith owns two businesses abroad -- one in Singapore and another in Bermuda.
The commission claims that it is imperative for all candidates to disclose information about their wealth -- both in the country and abroad.
However, Tabith declined to comment on the matter.
The findings suggest that Tabith Awal had failed to mention details of his business, NFM Energy PTE LTD, registered in Singapore. The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) of Singapore and the Corporate Compliance and Financial profile of NFM Energy indicates that the organization was registered on July 14, 2008, bearing registration number 200813720C. Moreover, it includes information regarding the organization, ownership, investments and how it operates.
According to information, Lal Teer Seed Ltd is owned by NFM Energy. Even though Tabith mentioned details about Lal Teer Seed in the election affidavit, he did not do so in the case of the Singapore-based company he owns.
ACC investigation going on
Meanwhile, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is currently investigating news that has recently emerged regarding NFM Energy’s being listed for money-laundering in the infamous Paradise Papers, a set of 13.4 million confidential electronic documents relating to offshore investments leaked by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on November 5, 2017. It suggested that Tabith Awal and his family members were owners of the organization.
ACC sought Mutual Legal Assistance Request (MLAR) from different countries on charges of money-laundering by NFM Energy.
“We are yet to hear back regarding the MLARs, which is why the investigation process is being bogged down,” ACC Chairman Iqbal Mahmud informed Bangla Tribune.
NFM Energy (Singapore) Pte Ltd
Registered as a jointly owned company in Singapore in 2008, Tabith owns 340 out of 1,000 shares of the company. The rest are owned by his brothers -- Tafsir Mohammed Awal (330) and Tajwar Mohammed Awal (330). The business registry lists all three brothers as US citizens with a fourth, non-shareholder director, who is a Singapore national.
Among the 37 companies owned and controlled by Tabith, mentioned in the election affidavit, NFM Energy Ltd is nowhere to be found.
In addition, NFM Energy partially owns Bangladesh Petrochemical Company Limited (BPCL), which has also not been disclosed to the EC as Tabith’s business interests, while recent financial documents said the former currently owns assets worth $2,143,267.
The Paradise Papers leaks and corruption
On November 5, 2017, a set of 13.4 million confidential electronic documents relating to offshore investments were leaked to the German reporters Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer from the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.
News of BNP leader Abdul Awal Mintoo owning shares of a Bermuda-based company that exists only on paper emerged in the leaks along with news that his wife, Nasreen Fatema Awal and his sons Tabith, Tafsir and Tajwar also own shares in NFM Energy.
Abdul Awal Mintoo is the chairman of Multimode Group while his wife and three sons are directors.
On May 8, 2018, Tabith Awal was questioned for four hours by ACC Deputy Director and Investigation officer Akhtar Hamid Bhuiyan at its headquarters in Segunbagicha, regarding money-laundering and illegal wealth following the leaks coming to light.
Speaking to Bangla Tribune, Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Dr Iftekharuzzaman said: “If Tabith Awal has taken his wealth to a foreign country without prior permission, he can be indicted for three offenses. The failure to disclose all information relating to his wealth in the election affidavit breaches laws relating to elections. It is, therefore, the task of the commission to investigate the matter. If the allegations are proved, his (Tabith’s) candidacy will be cancelled, even if he is elected.”