The Anti-Corruption Commission has found evidence of embezzlement of Tk 62 crore from the account of a client of Premier Bank's Bangshal branch, say officials.
The client, Khalilur Rahman, has claimed that bank's then vice chairman BH Haroon, also an Awami League lawmaker from Jhalakathi, stole Tk 134 crore from his account in 2008 in collusion with some bank officials.
“We have run an enquiry and found that around Tk 62 crore was embezzled through cheque fraud. Bank officials were involved in the scam,” ACC Chairman M Bodiuzzaman told The Daily Star.
The ACC has initiated the process of filing a lawsuit, he said.
Khalilur and Haroon are from the same area in Jhalakathi, and they know each other for 25 years.
Khalilur, also joint secretary general of Jatiya Party (Manju), said he had partnership in construction business with Haroon and his brother Mojibul Haque Kamal for 12 years. But they didn't have any written agreements.
Documents show that construction firm Rumi Enterprise, owned by Khalilur, got a Tk 203 crore work order for building 15,000 houses in Sidr affected areas in southern Bangladesh in June 2008. The project was funded by the Saudi government.
In July, Khalilur opened an account with Bangshal branch of Premier Bank to make transactions for the project. He received Tk 203.06 crore from the Saudi government through seven cheques.
Khalilur withdrew Tk 69.11 crore from the account, and kept the remaining Tk 133.95 crore deposited in his account.
He had no idea that terrible news would come his way.
When he asked bank's then Bangshal branch manager Shamsuddin Chowdhury in December to adjust his Tk 4.5 crore loans at the bank's Gulshan branch, Shamsuddin told him that his account had been closed and no money was there.
“The news came as a big shock to me. It was like a bolt out of the blue,” Khalilur told this correspondent.
The manager informed Khalilur that he had withdrawn all the money through 388 cheques before asking for closure of the account.
Khalilur later found out that the bank's then vice chairman Haroon, additional managing director Abu Hanif Khan and Shamsuddin along with several others faked his signature and withdrew the money between October and November 2008.
He then took the issue to the bank's top management that held a series of meetings with the parties involved. But those meetings failed to yield any result.
Khalilur then approached Bangladesh Bank, the finance ministry and the ACC.
The BB finally launched an investigation into Khalilur's allegations last year. It found that the Premier Bank disbursed the money though the signature of the account holder and those on the cheques didn't match.
“Bank officials were least bothered about the dissimilarity in signatures. They allowed the perpetrators to take the money, which was unacceptable,” said a member of the probe team, asking not to be named.
Asked, Abu Hena Md Razi Hassan, deputy governor of the central bank, said they found some “elements of corruption” in this case, and referred it to the ACC for further investigation.
The ACC chairman said, “We are sure that bank officials were involved in the scam. But we cannot be sure about BH Haroon's involvement.”
Asked about the mismatch in signatures, then Bangshal branch manager Shamsuddin said there could have been a “bit difference in signatures” on the cheques used to withdraw the money.
“The account holder took the money himself and closed his account,” claimed Shamsuddin, who is now with the bank's Motijheel branch.
When told that there must be video footage of who took the money from the bank's Bangshal branch, he said, “Yes, there should be …”
Abu Hanif Khan, additional managing director of Premier Bank, said the bank's probe had found dissimilarity in signatures on some cheques.
“We have sent our findings to the central bank and the ACC,” he said.
Hanif ruled out his involvement in the scam.
Asked whether the bank checked the video footage to know who withdrew the money, Hanif said he had no knowledge about it.
AL lawmaker Haroon rejected Khalilur's allegations against him, and claimed that Khalilur took loans from Premier Bank's Gulshan branch. As Khalilur failed to repay the loans, the bank declared him a defaulter.
“The bank now thinks of waiving his loans, considering his problems,” said Haroon, now a director of the bank.
Khalilur claimed that Haroon stole his money and amassed huge wealth under his and family members' names. He said it was evident from the lawmaker's wealth statements.
According to documents, Haroon invested Tk 6.62 lakh in capital markets and savings certificates in 2008. He used to earn Tk 30 lakh annually from rents and businesses, while his wife had no income.
Now, he and his wife have investments of more than Tk 15 crore in capital markets. He has about Tk 3 crore in cash, Tk 3.68 crore in fixed deposit and plots of land in Gazipur, Mirpur, Banani and Baridhara.