The house on Gulshan Avenue from where BNP leader Moudud Ahmed has recently been evicted has a unique story of love, deception and battle for ownership.
It all began in the 1960s when a man and a woman of two nationalities fell in love and eventually got married. Each of the couple -- Inge Flatz, an Austrian, and Muhammad Ehsan, a Pakistani, had their own businesses.
Flatz had her own property and business in the then East Pakistan and she retained her family name and nationality even after her marriage.
Dhaka Improvement Trust, now Rajuk, allotted her a one-bigha-and-13-katha plot on September 9, 1965, where she built a house with prior approval of the Trust, according to the Supreme Court verdict in the case involving the house.
In 1972, however, the house was declared abandoned after the couple left the country and its possession transferred to the government.
But Flatz launched a battle to regain her ownership, seeking assistance from the Austrian government, which apparently took the matter seriously.
Between 1972 and 1981, three Austrian ambassadors in Dhaka held a series of meetings with senior Bangladeshi officials and tried to persuade them to restore Flatz's ownership. Finally in June 1980, the government returned the house to her. Moudud, a BNP minister at the time, allegedly played a role in all this.
A new chapter of this saga opened when Flatz rented the house to Moudud under a lease agreement on May 23, 1981. The BNP leader started to live in the house with his family in June that year, according to the SC verdict.
In a new twist, however, a man named Mohsin Darbar was given the power of attorney by Flatz to do everything related to the property, including its sale.
During the trial, defence lawyers claimed Mohsin sold the house to Manzur Ahmed, Moudud's brother, on October 10, 1985.
Manzur also told the court that the price was fixed at 60,000 sterling pounds. Of which, he gave Flatz an advance of 20,000 and promised to pay the rest during registration of the land. But Mohsin was unable to obtain his income tax certificate and the permission to sell the property, for which it could not be registered.
Manzur filed a petition with a Dhaka court in 1993, seeking mutation of the property in his name. But in 2001, a Dhaka court dismissed the petition, saying that Mohsin Darbar is a fictitious character created for the purpose of giving the power of attorney.
The case later went to the High Court and eventually to the Supreme Court.
The SC too concluded that Mohsin Darbar “is a fake person set up by the plaintiff [Manzur Ahmed] to grab property by deceitful means."
It also said there was no evidence of any advance payment to Flatz as claimed by Manzur.
Documents produced by the government conclusively proved Flatz died before the execution of the agreement of sale of the property worth Tk 300 crore.
Manzur, who moved the apex court, finally lost the legal battle to retain control over the house where Moudud had been living until his eviction on June 7.
Following his eviction, Moudud said he had an enormous “emotional attachment” to the house as his kids grew up there. “This house is not a mere house to me. It's more than that.”
'REAL' OWNER IN TOWN
But the saga continues and promises to drag on further.
On Wednesday, just weeks after the eviction, Austrian citizen Karim Franz Solaiman claimed ownership of the house, identifying himself as the son of Flatz-Ehsan couple.
At a press conference at the Jatiya Press Club in Dhaka, Karim, 54, claimed to be the only heir to the property. He said he already applied to the government and Rajuk to mutate the house in his name.
The property still belongs to his family, which was established by the SC verdict, he added.
Asked if Moudud paid the house rents, he said: not a single penny.
When asked to comment about Karim's claim, Moudud said, “I came to know about him from newspapers today [yesterday]. I do not know anything about it.”
Karim was allegedly picked by law enforcers from a Gulshan hotel yesterday.
Abdul Baten, joint commissioner of Detective Branch of police of the DMP, said, “We neither detained nor arrested him. Karim came to the police, seeking cooperation to regain ownership of the house.”
However, Md Shahjahan, additional deputy commissioner of DB (Gulshan Zone), said, “We brought him for interrogation.”
Karim's counsel Jennifer Ashraf said her client came to Dhaka on Saturday to establish his ownership and give the power of attorney to someone.
She added she was given the power of attorney.
Asked why he has come now, she said, “Karim was very concerned about his security. Also, the legal battle was on, so he was waiting for the verdict.”
Karim is a marine biologist and a real estate businessman in Austria. He contacted Jennifer in 2014 and since then they were keeping their eyes on the issue. Karim has some friends in Bangladesh who were giving him updates regularly.
His mother died of cancer at the age of 43. Till the last day of her life, she wanted to regain ownership of the house where she had a lot of memories. The house was built when she was some 22 years old, Karim told the press conference.
“I came here to claim the house as my mother's memory was closely linked to the house,” he said.
After police “released” him in the evening, he was preparing to leave Dhaka for Austria last night. As of 1:00am today, he was at the Dhaka airport.