Seven months after the international crimes tribunal was set up for trying war criminals, Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mir Quasem Ali schemed to foil the trial by playing his trump card: Money.
In October 2010, Quasem struck a $25 million deal with one of the most influential US lobby firms, Cassidy & Associates, for engaging with the US government and the Bangladesh government “to protect his interest”.
A Washington-based journalist found the amount “huge” given it was paid by an individual, although lobbying is legal in the US.
The journalist told The Daily Star the contract violated the US law, as the firm did not inform the US government that it was representing a client having political interests in a foreign country.
Under the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act, lobby firms are required to inform the US government of any such deals.
In July this year, the US Department of Justice charged two persons for not disclosing a similar deal to represent the Pakistan government.
It is widely believed that the outcry over the war crimes trial's international standard was a product of Quasem's trump card, which he has in God's plenty.
He reportedly received foreign donations and investments, particularly from the Middle East countries, including Saudi Arabia, to run dozens of institutions.
The money, some of it being Zakat donation, is believed to have been used for advancing Jamaat's political agenda. Allegations are rife that large chunks of the money are used to fund the Islamist party's political programs, which turned particularly deadly in the last few years.
The deal Quasem signed with Cassidy & Associates was later represented by his brother Mir Masum Ali.
Under the deal, Cassidy was to “engage on behalf of CLIENT in general government relations with Members of Congress/Senate with jurisdiction over foreign policy pertaining to South Asia, and key decision makers within the US administration”.
In March this year, another $50,000 agreement was struck with the same US lobby firm for “condemning the actions of the ICT [international crimes tribunal] and to use best efforts to include anti-ICT legislative language in the House/Senate Department.”
The Daily Star has obtained copies of both the deals.
Clients of this $50,000 deal were two organisations -- the Organisation for Peace and Justice, and the Human Rights and Development in Bangladesh.
Intriguingly, the US address of Quasem, his brother and these two organisations is same in the agreement papers.
Since liberation of the country, Quasem has been considered the moneyman of Jamaat that now stands on a solid financial ground. He has turned dozens of institutions linked to Jamaat into profitable businesses.
Having remained missing after independence in 1971, he resurfaced in mid-1970s to take the helm of the business institutions linked to the Islamist party.
An economics graduate from Dhaka University, one of his earliest ventures was Islami Bank. Set up in 1983, it is now among the biggest commercial banks in the country.
Jamaat's economy grew astronomically ever since Quasem took the charge, spreading the business from banking to sectors like health, education, communications and media.
Proof of this is evident in the petition filed in July last year by his lawyers seeking the division status in jail for him.
“The petitioner enjoys a high social status as he is an established businessman and entrepreneur. He is regularly invited to international conferences and diplomatic events due to his high position in society,” the petition said.
Quasem is a member of Islami Bank Foundation, a sister concern of Islami Bank, it added.
He is also identified in the petition as the member secretary of Fouad Al-Khateeb Charity Foundation, a welfare organisation founded by a former Saudi ambassador.
He is also chairman of Association of Multipurpose Welfare Agencies, an association of NGOs, and vice-chairman of Industrialists and Businessmen Welfare Foundation, a global forum for businessmen and industrialists of Bangladesh origin from 20 countries.
In addition, he holds management positions in at least half a dozen other bodies overseeing think-tanks and educational institutions.
He also owns about a dozen businesses from tourism to real estate under the name of Keari.