No need to return Tk 615cr to 17 firms, businessmen
The Supreme Court yesterday stayed its earlier verdict that directed the government to return Tk 615 crore to 17 companies and several businesspeople that had been forced to deposit the amount with Bangladesh Bank as tax on their alleged hidden money during the last caretaker government's tenure.
The apex court also allowed the government and the BB to move separate appeals before it against the High Court judgments that had also ordered the government to return the money.
A seven-member bench of the SC's Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain came up with the order after hearing an appeal and 13 review petitions filed by the government and the BB challenging its earlier verdict and a contempt of court petition filed by a company which had deposited money.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told The Daily Star that the government need not return the money following the top court order.
The SC passed the order on the grounds that the money had been deposited with the state fund as black money and that is why it cannot be returned.
Besides, the companies and the businesspeople had deposited the money voluntarily so they cannot want it back, he added.
BB lawyer M Amir-Ul Islam told reporters that the HC had directed the BB to return the money following some writ petitions. But the petitions were not acceptable over the issue of returning money.
Lawsuits could be filed for the recovery of the money, he added.
Ahsanul Karim, a lawyer for the companies, said the BB need not return the money to his clients following the SC order.
On March 16 last year, the SC's Appellate Division dismissed 11 appeals challenging 11 HC verdicts that had ordered the government to return Tk 615 crore to 17 companies and several businesspeople.
The companies include S Alam Steel Ltd, Meghna Cement Mills Ltd, Bashundhara Paper Mills Ltd, Unique Hotel and Resort Ltd, Eastern Housing Ltd and the Consolidated Tea and Land (Bangladesh) Ltd and East West Property Development (Pvt) Ltd.
Later, the government and the BB filed an appeal and 13 separate review petitions with the SC challenging its verdict.
East West Property Development (Pvt) Ltd, a company which was forced to deposit money with the BB during the regime of the military-backed caretaker government, filed a contempt of court petition with the SC against the government for not returning its money.
During the 2007-08 tenure of the army-backed caretaker government, an unprecedented anti-corruption crackdown was launched by army-led taskforces under the National Coordination Committee.
The joint forces investigating high-profile financial crimes had interrogated a number of corruption suspects and businesspeople.
At least 40 companies and individuals had to deposit over Tk 1,200 crore with the central bank following the drive.
After an elected government took office in January 2009, the companies approached it on several occasions to get back their money. But the government didn't entertain their requests.
Later, the 17 companies filed writ petitions with the HC, seeking a refund with interest.