Panama Papers put big names under spotlight | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 11, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:17 PM, May 11, 2016

Panama Papers put big names under spotlight

The Panama Papers have put some well-known political and corporate leaders under the spotlight after their names cropped up in connection to offshore entities bearing roots in Bangladesh.

Some Bangladeshi nationals and entities have names that are identical or similar to those mentioned in the leaks of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The Washington-based organisation, however, did not suggest the persons or companies had done any wrongdoing.

On Monday, the ICIJ named three new companies, 14 new addresses and 24 individuals with links to Bangladesh on its second list of leaks.

The first leak, which was published in 2013, contained names of 32 Bangladeshis.

The addresses include Reem Tariq El Mutwalli of Rosabel Ltd located in 65-66 Motijheel commercial area.

The holding number belongs to the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which has already sent letters to the National Board of Revenue and the Anti-Corruption Commission saying that no such entity has office in the building.

“The holding number has been used as the address of the Dhaka Chamber in all government records for the last six decades. The stated individual had never been a tenant of the building,” said the letter.

The chamber uses three floors of the building, Modhumoti Bank another three and the Business Initiative Leading Development, a platform facilitating dialogues between public and private sectors, the remaining one floor.

“There are two tenants in the building,” the DCCI said.

The leaks also named some heavyweight telecom personalities of the country.

One of them is Mehboob Chowdhury, chief executive officer of mobile phone operator Citycell. Sources close to him said he is in talks with senior lawyers on the issue.

The names of former officials and a relative of the top management of Citycell, the oldest mobile phone operator in Bangladesh, also came up.

Kafil HS Muyeed, CEO of international gateway operator Cel Telecom, was also mentioned in the list.

The Daily Star tried to contact them but their mobile phones were found switched off.

The names of another IGW operator Bangla Trac's owner Mohammad Aminul Haque and his sons Nazim Asadul Haque and Tarique Ekramul Haque have appeared in the first list of the leaks.

Their company Bangla Trac Ltd has also been named.

Tarique Ekramul Haque, who is now abroad, received the correspondent's phone call but when asked about the issue he switched off his mobile.

Zain Omar, owner of internet service provider AccessTEL, was mentioned in the list.

The leaks also named Bangladesh Biman Inc, Islamic Solidarity Shipping Company Bangladesh and Bangladesh Textile Agencies Ltd.

In a statement, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, the national flag carrier, said it had nothing to do with the so-called offshore company that might have some resemblance only to the name of the airline. 

Some of the addresses stated in the Panama Papers are located in the capital's Gulshan residential area and they were verified.

One address mentioned in the Panama Papers is house No 4/A on Gulshan road No 73.

It is owned by former minister and ruling Awami League presidium member Kazi Zafrullah and his wife Nilufar Zafrullah MP, according to a security guard on duty at the property. 

Kazi Zafrullah did not respond to the correspondent's repeated phone calls or messages.

Another address, house No 23/B on Gulshan road No 35, is owned by one Giri Babu, said a security guard on duty yesterday.

The owner or owners of house No 25 (CES A) on road No 121, a relatively old two-storey structure, could not be identified as the security guard on duty, Thomas, said: “I do not know the owner's name.”

The apartment No 1 of house No 21 on road No 123 of Gulshan is owned by one Md Rubel, said the security guards on duty.

Two addresses -- one at house No 33 on road No 22 and house No 31 on road No 17 -- could not be located.

One address in South Monipur in Mirpur turned out to be a residential building.

The names and addresses based in Chittagong city were found to be fake.

According to the Panama Papers, one Aleksandar Zakharov used the address -- house No 29, road No 2, Hill View Residential Area, 571 Nasirabad, Panchlaish in Chittagong.

The Daily Star correspondent visited the area and found house No 29 on road No 1 in the area. Houses -- from No 13 to No 21 -- were located on the quoted road No 2 in the area.

The house No 29 on road No 1 is a six-storey tower named Jumairah Lamsy Palace.

Rasul Ahmed Rana, manager of the tower, said no one by the name of Aleksanar Zokharov resided in the property since it was constructed about five years ago.

The address of Capt MA Jaul, house No 3, road No 3, Khulshi Hill, Chittagong was also mentioned.

Garment maker Syed Sirajul Haque is the owner of house No 3. He is the chairman of Beaumonde Group, said Didarul Alam, in-charge of the company.

“I have never heard of any name like Capt MA Jaul. The owner has been residing in the house all along and it has never been let to outsider,” Alam added.

The ICIJ website says it does not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.

It said many people and entities have the same or similar names.

"We suggest you confirm the identities of any individuals or entities located in the database, based on addresses or other identifiable information.”

A former senior official of the NBR said unscrupulous people largely used tax heavens such as Panama to dodge tax.

“So, when some bodies or entities' names come up in such leaks they become uneasy,” he told The Daily Star requesting anonymity.

Bangladesh's law is very strict about allowing its citizens to invest abroad. They have to take permissions from the central bank to do so.

So far in the history of Bangladesh, only one or two companies have been allowed to invest outside of the country.

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