In an unusual move, the Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday filed three cases against Expatriates' Welfare Secretary Khondaker Showkat Hossain for misuse of power while he was housing secretary.
Showkat illegally altered the categories and size of three Rajuk plots allotted to him, his wife Aysha Begum and mother Zakia Amjad while he was secretary at the housing and public works ministry between 2010 and 2011, according to an ACC probe report.
He did it in collusion with some Rajuk officials and violated "The Dhaka Improvement Trust (Allotment of Land) Rule--1969" that gives no scope for altering the category and size of Rajuk plots, the probe report said.
Besides, Rajuk rules don't allow a couple to own more than one plot in Rajuk projects, it mentioned.
This is the second time that the ACC has sued an incumbent secretary in recent years.
Under pressure from the World Bank, the commission on December 17, 2012, filed a case against the then Bridges Division Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan along with six others on charge of conspiring to commit bribery in the Padma bridge project.
ACC officials submitted the report to the commission in mid-March and recommended filing three cases against 23 people, including Showkat, his wife and mother, Rajuk Chairman Nurul Huda, its ex-Chairman Shahid Alam and nine present and former board members for the irregularities.
Examining the probe report, the ACC found Showkat solely responsible for it. He abused power to change Rajuk's decisions, said an ACC official.
Showkat got the size of his plot increased to five katha from three katha in 2005 when he was a deputy secretary. The three plots were first allotted between 1995 and 2005 to the trio in Rajuk's Purbachal and Uttara projects in the capital.
On the ACC's approval, its Deputy Director Jatan Kumar Roy filed the cases with Motijheel Police Station, said ACC Public Relations Officer Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya.
Proloy Kumar Saha, inspector (investigation) of the police station, said, "The ACC will carry out the investigation in the cases."
The anti-graft body could file the lawsuits against Showkat as a recent High Court verdict scrapped a provision in the ACC law that required prior permission from the government to file corruption cases against public officials.
ACC Commissioner Shahabuddin said the HC declared the controversial provision illegal a few months ago, and no appeal was filed against the verdict.
"We did not require any prior permission from the government to file the cases," he said.
WHAT PROBE REPORT SAYS
In the probe by ACC Deputy Director Roy, it was found that the Rajuk officials concerned tampered with the date on Rajuk documents of the three-katha plot allotted to Showkat's mother Zakia Amjad for re-allotting her a five-katha plot.
The ACC retrieved Zakia's application to the Rajuk for altering her plot size to five katha from three katha, and found that Rajuk Chairman Nurul Huda put a remark on the application "Reference -- Secretary (Showkat) … consider the matter …"
Huda then forwarded the application to Akhter Hossain Bhuiyan, member (estate) of Rajuk. On May 12, 2011, the application was placed at a meeting of Rajuk board which eventually approved it, said the report.
Similarly, Showkat's wife Aysha Begum got re-allotment of a 12-katha plot in 2010, instead of a 7.5 katha-plot allotted to her in 2005.
Asked about the lawsuits against him, Showkat said the ACC filed the cases based on a wrong premise.
“It is not legally right to file a case at a time when enquiry is going on,” he said.
The secretary claimed alteration of plot categories is very common, and the change in size of plots was done following due procedures of Rajuk.
"We made formal appeals to the Rajuk authorities, seeking alteration of categories of our plots. Rajuk considered our applications and altered those. Rajuk knows whether it followed its rules or not."
He also said the ACC didn't take permission from the higher authorities for filing the cases.
Despite repeated attempts, Huda could not be reached over the phone.