12:00 AM, August 22, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 22, 2008

Anti-graft Drive-3

Property confiscation poses new problem

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Julfikar Ali Manik

Royal Filling Station owned by Mashfiqul Huq, son of former BNP state minister Ziaul Huq, remains closed after the Dhaka DC office confiscated it.Photo: STAR

The government departments concerned face difficulties in confiscating wealth of high-profile individuals convicted of graft in accordance with the court orders as there is no specific guideline on management of confiscated immovable property.
Despite a large number of confiscation orders handed down by the special courts dealing with graft cases, lack of specific information about which property to be confiscated and what to do afterwards is causing difficulties.
The special courts have so far ordered confiscation of property worth about Tk 500 crore.
Giasuddin Al Mamun tops the list with his property worth Tk 111 crore to be confiscated. The lowest confiscation verdict was handed down on Titas gas official Shahid Mia as the court ordered to confiscate his cellphone.
The Office of the Deputy Commissioner (DC) concerned is responsible for confiscating the property under its jurisdiction, according to the court orders.
Sources in Dhaka DC office say they have made a little headway with the seizure thanks to lack of specific information in court orders and absence of instructions regarding management of the attached property.
The sources said they sought assistance from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), National Board of Revenue (NBR) and public prosecutors (PP) in the special courts to have specific information and guidelines.
The ten special courts set up at the MP Hostel in National Parliament Complex by military-backed caretaker government have so far handed down punishment in 105 graft cases filed mostly by ACC and NBR.
The government has meanwhile taken initiatives to issue an ordinance regarding management of confiscated immovable property, sources say.
The government has initiated the move after the law ministry held separate meetings with the DC offices. Management of confiscated immovable property might be included and specified in the Abandoned Property Act, the sources add.
"In cases of movable property like gold or money, we've made the confiscation and deposited those to the government exchequer. But we don't understand what to do with immovable property like houses, business centres, or land as the DC office is not responsible for its management," says an official in Dhaka DC office asking not to be identified.
The official adds: "The DC office can't run business after confiscating a business centre. What will we do with that? And we have stopped confiscating immovable property. Who will be responsible if any loss is occurred to the confiscated property and the convicted finally secure order through appeal from higher courts to get their property back?"
The new ordinance being formulated for management of immovable property will entrust four ministries with the task of confiscation under four categories. The home ministry will be tasked with management of confiscated houses, the industries ministry with confiscated industries, the land ministry with land and the commerce ministry with business centres.
The Dhaka DC office has already confiscated a number of houses, flats and business centres of some high-profile graft convicts. The confiscated property is now under police watch with businesses halted or tenants removed from the flats and houses, sources say.
Once management is entrusted to some authorities, the concerned departments can let the flats or houses or run the business centres. The money earned through these will be deposited to the government coffers till disposal of the last appeal by the convicted.
If the convicts finally win the appeal, the property and the money earned so far will be returned to them, the sources add.
"All the verdicts made by the special courts can be challenged or appealed against. So the money confiscated so far is being deposited to a code so that it can be returned to the convicted once he/she wins the appeal," says a DC office official.
"If the government ultimately wins, the confiscated property will be transferred to another code and become non-returnable."
Confiscated gold is also being kept in the government treasury under the same condition, the sources say.
The DC office in Dhaka has so far confiscated nine tolahs of gold from Nasima Huq, wife of former LGRD state minister Ziaul Huq Zia, who was tried in absentia.
In two other verdicts the special courts ordered to confiscate 470 tolahs of gold. Of the gold, 200 tolahs belong to BNP ward commissioner Monwar Hossain Dipjol and the rest to Mohsen Ara Ghani, wife of former chief conservator of forest Osman Ghani.
But the orders have yet to be implemented.
An estimate says the Dhaka DC office has received copies of 53 verdicts and has nothing to do with 18 of those. Of the rest, two flats in Moghbazar and Shegun Bagicha owned by Isratunnesa, wife of Obaidul Qader, have been confiscated.
The DC office has also confiscated one-third of a tin-shed house on 0.27 acre of land in Shyampur owned by former BNP lawmaker Salahuddin Ahmed's son Shahriar Ahmed. The office, however, could not confiscate his other property for lack of specific information.
The property confiscated in Dhaka so far includes Royal Filling Station in Mohakhali of Ziaul Huq Zia's son Mashfiqul Haque, two plots in Bashundhara of former state minister for power Iqbal Hasan Mahmud Tuku, two flats including one in Gulshan-2 of former BNP lawmaker Manjurul Ahsan Munshi, over Tk 63.91 lakh of former communications minister Nazmul Huda, and over Tk 61,000 of former PSC member Mahfuzur Rahman.
While confiscating Tk 1 crore from former state minister Salahuddin Ahmed's account with the National Commerce and Credit Bank, the officials found there was no money. GQ Ballpen provided the money on behalf of the former minister.
The car belonging to National Tea Company that Harris Chowdhury used through misuse of power was confiscated and returned to the owner.
More property of Mahfuzur Rahman is supposed to be confiscated in Nilphamari, Mymensingh and Gazipur.
There is more immovable property of Iqbal Hasan Mahmud Tuku, Munsi, Nasima Huq, Shahriar Ahmed and Mashfiqul Haque still to be confiscated.
The DC office in Dhaka has also sought a specific list of property to be confiscated from Doctors Association of Bangladesh (DAB) leader Dr Zahid.
The officials also could not confiscate Tk 2.4 crore taken by Nazmul Huda as bribe as the court order has not mentioned from where to get the sum. Besides, the car owned by former lawmaker Shahjahan Chowdhury could not be attached as its whereabouts are unknown.
The officials have also refrained from confiscating two houses of former Awami League lawmaker Abul Hasnat Abdullah in Kalabagan as they don't have instructions regarding management of the houses.
Moreover, the property of former state minister Mir Mohammad Nasir Uddin and his son Mir Helal, Dr Mahiuddin Khan Alamgir, former secretary ANH Akter Hossain, Ali Asgar Lobi and his wife Khushnur Asgar, Shamsun Nahar, Imran Ahmed, ATM Sarwar Hossain, Afroza Abbas, Monwar Hossain Dipjol and his wife Romana Monwar, Ziaul Huq Zia, Rabeya Haider and authorised officer of Rajuk Mozaffar Uddin cannot be confiscated due to lack of information.
The DC office has sent letters to confiscate Tk 4.92 crore of Hafiz Ibrahim deposited to different banks in the capital and Bhola. The office has also sent letters to banks for confiscating his wife Mafroz Sultana's over Tk 7.88 crore.
The DC office has also completed all preparations to confiscate movable property of the Hafiz couple and would complete the job as soon as the ordinance is promulgated.

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