12:00 AM, March 20, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

BB urges anti-graft watchdog to speed up Hall-Mark probe

BB urges anti-graft watchdog to speed up Hall-Mark probe

Rejaul Karim Byron

Bangladesh Bank has urged the Anti-Corruption Commission to expedite its investigation into the Hall-Mark scam so that Sonali Bank's dispute with other banks over payment of accepted bills can be settled as soon as possible.
Of the Tk 3,547 crore embezzled by the Hall-Mark Group, Tk 1,709 crore was taken out through letters of credit, and after the scam came to light, Sonali decided to stop payment of the bills accepted by other banks lest fraud is involved in them.
This has run Sonali into a cold war with the banks, with one state-owned bank even threatening to file a case.
As a result, the banking sector is going through a lack of mutual trust and disinterest in business, which may negatively impact the entire banking business, the central bank said.
In this backdrop, the BB governor on January 23 sent a letter to the ACC chairman requesting completion of the investigation as soon as possible so that Sonali can clear the payment for the genuine accepted bills. The central bank is yet to hear back from the ACC.
The BB letter said 38 cases have been filed so far for the funded loans (Tk 1,837 crore). But investigation into the alleged irregularities involving the non-funded loans (Tk 1,709 crore) that were taken through LCs has not been completed yet.
The non-funded loans arose when Sonali purchased accepted bills through different branches of 26 banks, the BB said.
Zaid Bakht, a director of Sonali Bank, said the board has decided to not honour accepted bills which are under the ACC probe on charges of fraud.
A central bank high official told The Daily Star that although Sonali is legally bound to pay the dues to other banks, they cannot put pressure on the embattled bank since a large-scale fraud took place in this case.  
If Sonali clears the payment for the accepted bills, their legal position surrounding the Hall-Mark scam might become weak. Meanwhile, a Sonali Bank official said the bank held a meeting with the finance minister and urged that they be not put under pressure to clear the payment for the accepted bills.
An ACC official said investigation is going on into the non-funded loans but no case has been lodged yet.


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