Tarique laundered money
An FBI agent yesterday testified in the Tk-20.41-crore money-laundering case filed against BNP chief Khaleda Zia's son Tarique Rahman and his business partner Giasuddin Al Mamun.
This is for the first time that a US Federal Bureau of Investigation agent has testified before a court in Bangladesh. The testimony is expected to be a turning point in the case since the agent has effectively said Tarique laundered money through using Mamun's account in a Singapore bank.
Debra Laprevotte, a supervisory special agent of the FBI, narrated before a Dhaka court how she had tracked down the money allegedly laundered by BNP Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman and Mamun to a bank account in Singapore.
She said the documents recovered from the Singapore bank include detailed records of money transfers and payments made from the account. It also had photocopies of Tarique and Mamun's passports, which were submitted when the two applied for credit cards from the bank.
“The first credit card on the account was a Visa credit card in the name of Mr Mamun,” she told the court, adding, “…There is another credit card in the name of Tarique Rahman.”
Giasuddin Al Mamun, 47, stood in the dock at the back of the courtroom throughout the two-hour-long proceedings yesterday. Tarique Rahman remains a fugitive.
After Laprevotte's testimony, the judge of Special Judge's Court-3 asked Mamun whether he would like to cross-examine Laprevotte to which Mamun shook his head to say no. His lawyer had earlier left the court protesting Laprevotte's testimony.
When the proceedings began at 11:20pm, barrister Fakhrul Islam, Mamun's lawyer, opposed Laprevotte's testifying. He submitted a petition seeking adjournment of the hearing on the ground that the witness had not been mentioned in the charge sheet and that additional witnesses could only testify after all witnesses mentioned in the charge sheet had given their depositions.
Opposing the petition, Anti-Corruption Commission chief counsel Anisul Haq said there was no legal barrier to having testimony from any additional witnesses. He argued that Section-540 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) says that the court may summon any person as a witness or re-examine any person, even if that person was not summoned before, if his or her evidence is essential to the just decision of the case.
The judge then rejected the defence petition and asked Laprevotte to take the dock.
When she stepped up to the dock around noon, there was commotion. Lawyers, including Khandaker Mahbub Hossain and Fakhrul Islam, representing Tarique and Mamun, boycotted the court and left. They brought out a procession on the court premises in protest later on.
Laprevotte, 50, began her testimony at 12:05pm.
“I'm a supervisory special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” she said, adding, “I've been an FBI agent for 16 years. I have a master's degree in forensic science and advance training in money-laundering techniques.”
“In my country, I'm considered an expert in international money laundering for testimony purposes,” she said.
“In 2008, the then interim government of Bangladesh requested the assistance of the United States pursuant to a mutual legal assistance request,” she said.
Because of the request, the United States government sent representatives of the department of justice to Dhaka to obtain information regarding the asset recovery cases, she said.
“The US reviewed this request to ensure that it was not politically motivated,” she added.
She told the court that she started her investigation with the permission of the US government soon after the representatives of the US department of justice had met the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
“As part of my investigation, I discovered several bank accounts in Singapore. Among these accounts, I discovered a bank account in Citibank of Singapore,” she said.
“The account was in the name of Giasuddin Al Mamun.”
The US department of justice requested documents regarding the account via mutual legal assistance to Singapore.
“I received the documents for the bank accounts 158052-008 and 158052-016 for the years 2004 and 2005,” she said.
She found two credit cards of the account.
“The first credit card on the account was a Visa credit card in the name of Mr Mamun,” she told the court, adding that the number of Mamun's Visa credit card was 4568817000064124.
“There was another credit card in the name of Tarique Rahman,” she said, spelling the letters of Tarique's name out loud from the paper she held. The number of the credit card was 4568817010064122.
Laprevotte then presented a set of documents, comprising 43 pages, before the court as evidence. She later gave the court another set of documents containing 229 pages.
Laprevotte said while the US received the account records from Singapore, the Bangladesh government also made a request to Singapore, via mutual legal assistance, for the bank records of the accounts, including that of Mamun.
“In December 2009, I compared the records received from Singapore to those received by Bangladesh government from Singapore,” she said. “On December 15, 2009, I certified that both copies were identical and signed a letter of certification.”
The US department of justice then sent the documents to the attorney general of Bangladesh via the Bangladeshi embassy in Washington DC, she added.
While reviewing all the bank records, she found a photocopy of Tarique Rahman's passport, which was submitted to Citibank Singapore to obtain the second credit card on Mamun's bank account, she told the court.
The number of Tarique's passport was Y0085483 and Mamun's was Q0998382, she said.
“It lists Tarique's father as late President Ziaur Rahman Bir Uttam. And his mother was listed as Begum Khaleda Zia,” she said, spelling each name out loud before the court.
Laprevotte said bank records between 2002 and 2006 show how Tarique Rahman's credit card was used.
“The charges total $50,613.97, which were used for paying for travel to Athens of Greece, Frankfurt of Germany, Singapore, Bangkok and Dubai, along with shopping and medical expenses,” she said.
The documents from the ACC revealed that a Bangladeshi businesswoman named Khadiza Islam transferred $7,50,000 to Mamun's account in Singapore, she added.
“These funds were transferred on August 18, 2003. This makes up most of the funds in Mr Mamun's account at Citibank Singapore, which was used to make payments from Tarique Rahman's credit card,” she said.
“That is my testimony,” said Debra Laprevotte, as she ended her 75-minute deposition at 1:20pm.
After the testimony, the judge called out to Mamun, who stood on the dock at the back of the courtroom, and asked him whether he could hear the judge's voice.
“Now I can hear you,” Mamun replied with a smile.
It was then the judge asked him whether he would like to cross-examine the witness. Mamun shook his head.
Debra Laprevotte stepped off the dock at 1:25pm and the proceedings ended at 1:35pm.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam was also present throughout the hearing.
The next session of the case will be on December 8.
Tarique was detained on March 7, 2007, and was allowed to go abroad for treatment in July the following year. He is in London now. Mamun was arrested in March, 2007.