HC on Basic Bank Scam: ACC lacks neutrality in probe
The High Court yesterday severely rebuked the Anti-Corruption Commission for foot dragging and showing weaknesses in investigating cases over the BASIC Bank loan scam.
The commission lacks neutrality, transparency and competence in dealing with the cases, the court said, adding that the ACC is applying the “pick and choose” policy as "it keeps detaining and releasing people" in connection with the cases.
The bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Shahidul Karim made the remarks while hearing three petitions filed by Md Selim, former general manager of Internal Credit Division of BASIC Bank. In the pleas, Selim sought bail in three cases filed in 2015 for misappropriation of money and irregularities in approving bank loans.
During the hearing, Justice Enayetur told ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan that the commission was yet to arrest "any of the beneficiaries of the loan scam".
The commission has kept the investigation of the cases pending for more than two years and therefore, the culprits have been given the scope to get away, the judge said, adding that "the offences relating to the scam are very clear and not like those of clueless murders".
"Thousands of crore of taka have disappeared. Does the commission have no responsibility over the matter? The ACC should have directed the IO [investigation officer] to arrest all the accused."
In reply, Khurshid said a total of 48 cases have been filed in connection with the scam and charge sheets in five cases are awaiting approval from the commission.
The ACC will finish the investigation in those cases soon, he said.
Responding to this reply, Justice Enayetur said, “We will wait for completion of the investigation just the way we waited for Shuvo Mukti [auspicious release] of a cinema in our childhood”.
The HC bench later granted bail to Selim in the three cases.
He, however, cannot walk out of jail as he is arrested in other cases, Khurshid told The Daily Star.
The lawyer also said the ACC will move appeals before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, challenging the HC bail orders.
Advocate Shahdeen Malik appeared for Selim.
According to a Bangladesh Bank probe, about Tk 4,500 crore was siphoned out of BASIC Bank between 2009 and 2013 when Abdul Hye Bacchu chaired the board of the bank.
Kazi Faqurul Islam was removed on May 25, 2014 as the managing director of the bank because of his alleged involvement in the financial scams.
Bacchu resigned on July 5, 2014 as the chairman amid growing allegations that he misappropriated funds by approving shady loans of several thousand crores of taka.
On July 14, 2014, Bangladesh Bank sent a report on the BASIC Bank scam to the ACC, detailing how people embezzled money from that bank through fake companies and dubious accounts.
After primary investigation, the ACC filed around two dozen cases in September 2015 against over 20 bank officials and two dozen borrowing firms.
The financial scams posted huge amount of defaulted loans and eroded the capital base of the bank in the last several years.
According to data from the BB, defaulted loans in the bank increased to Tk 7,390 crore as of June this year from Tk 706 crore in December 2012.
Capital shortfall in the bank stood at Tk 2,210 crore at the end of June this year, indicating that the financial health of the organisation deteriorated significantly.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith several times in parliament expressed anger as he could not take steps against all involved in Sonali Bank and Basic Bank scams.
“Scams took place in Sonali Bank and Basic Bank. I've taken some steps in this regard. A deputy director landed in jail… I tried to put one into jail but failed because of our own people's support to them. So I am angry,” Muhith said in parliament on June 30, 2015.
On February 24, 2016, he told parliament that 27 bank officials, 56 organisations and eight surveyor firms were involved in the BASIC Bank loan scam.
He said external audit firms appointed by Bangladesh Bank and BASIC Bank found involvement of Bacchu in granting irregular loans, recruitment and promotion of bank officials.
In September 2015, the anti-graft watchdog filed 18 cases against a number of bankers and borrowers linked with the scam.
But the then BASIC Bank chairman Bacchu, who is believed to be at the centre of the swindle, was not accused in any of the cases.
On July 26 this year, the High Court directed the ACC to probe the alleged involvement of Bacchu and its board members in the incident.
Last night, a source in the ACC claimed that the anti-graft body was investigating Bacchu's role in the scam before filing any case against him.