The Sonali Bank has floated tenders 60 times between 2013 and 2017 to sell the mortgaged assets of Hall-Mark Group but got no buyers, and the lender is now worried about recovering nearly Tk 3,000 crore from the scamster.
Bidders are not showing interest to buy the highly disputed properties of the garment maker, fearing it might invite trouble for them in future, sources in the state-owned bank said.
“The bank is in a fix, as it can neither use the properties nor sell those,” said a senior official of the bank.
“The machinery is gradually losing productivity as they have remained unused for long,” the official added, asking not to be named.
On top of that, the Sonali Bank has to count more money now to guard the mortgaged assets at its own cost. It also had to bear the cost of running about five dozen advertisements in different newspapers.
Finding no other alternative, the lender is now considering turning the Hall-Mark factory complex built on over 61.17 acres of mortgaged land into an economic zone, although it has not made a final decision yet.
As per Sonali Bank's assessment, Hall-Mark's assets and infrastructures are worth Tk 1,170 crore. Of this, the Group has mortgaged assets are worth Tk 389 crore.
After the loan scam surfaced following a Bangladesh Bank investigation in 2012, the Sonali Bank filed a petition with the civil court, seeking ownership of the rest of the Group's assets, worth Tk 781 crore, so it can recover the loan. The court is yet to deliver a verdict.
The lender also filed 16 lawsuits with money loan courts and two with civil courts, asking permission to sell the mortgaged properties. The money loan courts delivered verdicts in 15 cases, all in favour of the Sonali Bank.
In 2013, the Sonali Bank classified Hall-Mark's loans as bad loan and published a series of tenders inviting buyers. But the company challenged the tenders with the High Court, which stayed the move.
However, the HC later dismissed the petitions, and delivered a verdict in Sonali Bank's favour. Since then the bank had been floating tenders to sell the properties, only to find no one is interested to buy them.
The bank published its last auction notice in October last year in three Bangla dailies -- Nayadiganta, Janakantha and Jaijaidin.
Sonali Bank Managing Director Md Obayed Ullah Al Masud told The Daily Star that they failed to sell the properties despite repeated attempts.
“We are now thinking about setting up an economic zone on the Hall-Mark's land. If needed, we will provide investors with working capital for the zone. But the final decision will be made by the bank board,” he said.
The Hall-Mark story left central bankers, commercial bankers and the government high-ups astonished given the degree of irregularities.
In 2012, the central bank found that the company took Tk 2,964 crore in loans from the then Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch between 2010 and May 2012 using forged documents.
The little-known group started business in 2006, when it bought just 36 decimals of land from Janata Housing at Hemayetpur. It set up its first factory, Hall-Mark Fashion, there in 2007, the year it started banking with Sonali Bank's Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch.
In 2008, the group set up Boby Fashion, Wall-Mart Fashion, Hall-Mark Style, Boby Denim and Hall-Mark Design Wear with Sonali Bank loans.
There were no new factories built in the next two years. But in 2011, the company suddenly got hold of a source of money and set up 27 factories that year.
The money came from Sonali Bank in the form of short-term loans for 120 days, a gross violation of banking rules.
A number of Sonali Bank officials, including its deputy managing directors, were suspended for their alleged involvement in the scam and are now facing court cases.
Hall-Mark Group Managing Director Tanvir Mahmud and Chairman Jasmine Islam are now in jail.