The fraudulent terry towel maker, whose owners are absconding, have requested rescheduling of Tk 560cr by paying 2% down payment
If anything, Bismillah Group, which was in the news in 2013 for embezzling loans amounting to Tk 1,200 crore from five lenders, is chutzpah personified.
Of the sum, Tk 445 crore is from Janata Bank alone.
In the seven years, the state-run lender has not managed to recover a single penny from the opportunistic terry tower producer, with the loan amount ballooning to Tk 560 crore, according to documents witnessed by Dhaka Tribune.
Now, Bismillah Group has requested Janata to reschedule the sum by making a down payment of only 2 per cent under the central bank’s special loan rescheduling policy, which gives a repayment horizon of 10 years with a year’s grace period.
Under the policy, a maximum of 9 per cent interest can be charged but Bismillah has urged Janata to waive off the interest entirely, said a high official of the state-run bank seeking anonymity as he is not authorised to speak with the media.
Janata has taken the issue to its board meeting on November 18.
“We have discussed the issue in our board meeting but nothing has been decided yet,” Abdus Salam Azad, managing director of Janata Bank, told Dhaka Tribune.
The company wanted to reschedule their defaulted loans with 2 per cent down payment by bringing money from abroad, Azad said.
Bismillah Group could not be reached for comment.
According to Bismillah Group’s website, its office is located on Banani 18 in the capital. The correspondent paid a visit to the property but no existence of Bismillah Group was found.
The company had folded its office several years ago, said the residents of the area.
Contacted, Md. Serajul Islam, executive director and spokesperson of the Bangladesh Bank, said: “If there is any legal complication, the bank will have to take a thoughtful decision to reschedule the bad loans.”
At the earlier part of the decade, the export-oriented company took about Tk 1,200 crore from five banks including Prime, Premier, Jamuna and Shahjalal Islami by showing fake documents and siphoned off the amount to the outside of Bangladesh through fake letters of credit (LCs) between 2012 and 2013, according to an investigation report of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
Of the sum, Prime Bank lent at Tk 327 crore and Jamuna Tk 154 crore. The remaining Tk 274 crore has been given out by private lenders Premier and Shahjalal Islami.
After embezzling the money, Bismillah Group's Managing Director Khwaja Solaiman Anwar Chowdhury moved to Dubai overnight.
Jamuna did not receive any request for rescheduling from Bismillah like Janata has, according to its Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Mirza Elias Uddin Ahmed.
“We did not receive any application as Jamuna Bank wrote off the bad loans of Bismillah. Now we are recovering the embezzled money through legal action,” he told Dhaka Tribune.
The bank has already recovered Tk 7 crore by selling the mortgaged properties and has filed 10 cases against the group in Artho Rin Adalat (financial loans court), Ahmed added.
The high officials of Premier, Prime and Shahjalal Islami declined to comment on the matter, saying the issue is sub-judice.
In 2013, after an investigation, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed 12 cases against 53 people, including 13 officials of Bismillah Group and 40 bankers, on charges of swindling the sum.
On September 10, 2018, a Dhaka court sentenced Chowdhury; his wife Nowrin Hasib, who is the chairman of Bismillah Group; and seven others 10 years of imprisonment and fined them Tk 30.7 crore.
But all the accused including Chowdhury and Hasib are now absconding.
The High Court on February 25 directed the authorities concerned to issue a red alert with the help of the Interpol against Chowdhury and six others in a money laundering case.