The ongoing investigation into the BASIC Bank loan scam cases by the Anti-Corruption Commission has slowed down on the question whether the bank's former chairman Abdul Hye Bacchu will be made accused.
“Investigators are waiting for the green signal from the Commission. But the Commission seems relaxed on the question of making Bacchu accused. That's why it is taking time,” said a top ACC official, wishing anonymity.
The Bangladesh Bank in 2014 had said Bacchu illegally influenced all the activities of BASIC, leaving the once-sound institution in a grave state.
Around Tk 4,500 crore was siphoned out of the state-run bank between 2009 and 2013 when Bacchu chaired its board, found a BB inquiry.
Yet the investigators could not finish probing the 56 cases filed in 2015 over misappropriation of Tk 2,036 crore.
Annoyed at the delay, the High Court last week summoned all the ACC investigators dealing with the loan scam cases to appear before it with an explanation on May 30 (tomorrow).
Earlier on July 26 last year, the HC directed the anti-graft body to probe the alleged involvement of Bacchu and board members of the bank in the scam.
Besides the 56, four more cases were filed since last year and this year over misappropriation of about Tk 412 crore. The probe into these cases has just begun.
Bacchu, who has already skipped ACC quizzing thrice, is scheduled to appear before the Commission tomorrow for quizzing.
Yesterday, ACC lawyers and investigators sat at its headquarters to prepare their explanation for the HC. The meeting was jointly chaired by two director generals and also joined by two directors.
An official, who attended the meeting, said investigators briefed lawyers about the progress of the investigation.
“Some [investigators] said they would already have completed the investigation had the Supreme Court not asked them to implicate Bacchu,” said the source.
“The investigation will be completed in two months if the Commission allows making Bacchu accused in the scam cases.”
Two members of three-man Commission are now abroad. This correspondent tried to reach ACC Commissioner AFM Aminul Islam over the phone but he did not answer the call.
Talking to the Daily Star, ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan said investigators told him about the progress of investigations. “We hope the probe will be completed in six months.”
However, ACC Director Syed Iqbal Hossain, who is supervising the ongoing investigations, said, “Transaction took place in cash. So it has become difficult for us to trace where the money went.
“If we could trace where the money went, we would become able to find out the real culprits.”
He added, “It's not possible to say right now how long it will take to complete the investigation.”
After filing the 56 cases, ACC arrested about 18 persons including BASIC Bank officials, surveyors and some businessmen at different times. All but the officials managed to secure bail, according to the ACC director.
While hearing 15 petitions filed by former deputy managing director of BASIC Bank Fazlur Sobhan seeking bail in 15 cases, the HC bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Shahidul Karim on May 23 summoned the investigators.
Though the ACC investigators are yet to make Bacchu and former board members of BASIC accused in the cases, the finance ministry dissolved the board in July 2014 following the loan scam.
Some former board members have even been promoted and are now carrying out important government duties at different ministries.
On July 14, 2014, the BB sent a report to the ACC, detailing how money was embezzled from that bank through fake companies and dubious accounts.
Besides, Finance Minister AMA Muhith in parliament on several occasions expressed anger as he could not take steps against all involved in the scams in BASIC Bank and another state-run institution, Sonali Bank.
On February 24, 2016, he told the House that 27 bank officials, 56 organisations and eight surveyor firms were involved in the BASIC Bank loan scams.
He said external audit firms appointed by the BB and BASIC Bank detected involvement of Bacchu in granting irregular loans.
On August 17 last year, the Supreme Court expressed discontent at the ACC for not naming former BASIC chairman Bacchu and ex-board members in the two loan scams.
While hearing a petition of the ACC, a three-member SC bench said, “We do not want the Anti-Corruption Commission to maintain any pick and choose policy in implicating accused in such cases, as nobody is above the law. All the allegations must be investigated with importance.”