Hallmark loan scam under ACC probe | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 14, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 14, 2012

Hallmark loan scam under ACC probe

Several Sonali Bank officials involved in lending Tk 3,547cr to little known entities

The Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating a state-run bank's illegal lending of Tk 3,547 crore to little-known Hallmark Group and five other companies, and the people involved in the scam.
The amount embezzled by the six entities is equivalent to almost 15 percent of the total estimated cost of the $2.9 billion Padma bridge project.
Bangladesh Bank has recently requested the ACC to dig into the matter after it found proof of massive irregularities in lending by state-owned Sonali Bank's Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch from 2010 to May this year.
“It is necessary to check whether any director of the board was involved in the scam,” read a BB letter to the ACC chairman.
A central bank probe found that Sonali Bank high-ups, including a deputy managing director, a general manager and the branch manager, were directly involved in the scam.
“We are investigating the irregularities, but I cannot say how long it will take to finish the probe,” ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahman told The Daily Star yesterday.
He said the ACC set up an inquiry committee after the media published reports on the scam in May this year. Later, the commission received the letter from the central bank, he said.
The BB investigation found that Sonali Bank's Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch lent Hallmark Group and five other companies Tk 3,547 crore between 2010 and May this year on fake documents. The businesses embezzled the whole amount that belongs to depositors in collusion with some bank officials.
Of Tk 3,547 crore, Hallmark Group alone took away Tk 2,686.14 crore, T and Brothers Tk 609.69 crore, Paragon Group Tk 146.60 crore, Nakshi Knit Tk 66.36 crore, DN Sports Tk 33.25 crore and Khanjahan Ali Tk 4.96 crore.
Of the six borrowers, Hallmark has been found to be the biggest fraudster.
On March 28 this year, Hallmark opened local letters of credit worth Tk 500 crore in favour of Anwara Spinning Mills, Max Spinning Mills and Star Spinning Mills to buy yarn. The three companies are also clients of the bank's same branch.
Following Hallmark's guarantee to repay the LCs, the bank purchased the acceptance bills and disbursed the money to the accounts of the three spinning mills.
A few days later, the three mills asked the bank branch to transfer the money to the account of Hallmark Group and the branch duly obliged. Later, Hallmark transferred the money to a current account of Century International, a concern of the group.
The probe found that the three spinning mills are fictitious.
The officials of the bank's Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch breached the bank rules by giving loans beyond their permitted limits.
According to the bank's rules, a deputy general manager can buy a maximum of Tk 30 crore as acceptance bill from a group or organisation. But branch Manager AKM Azizur Rahman bought acceptance bill worth Tk 500 crore that was given to Hallmark Group on a single day.
The BB report said a general manager responsible for monitoring the branch's activities completely failed to carry out his duties. The report also found involvement of Md Mainul Haque, deputy managing director (international business), in the scam.
Humayun Kabir, who was the managing director of Sonali Bank from May 20, 2010 to May 19 this year, also failed to detect the scam in his bank.
Kabir could not be reached over the phone for comments despite repeated attempts.
Meanwhile, a member of the ACC inquiry team told The Daily Star that the main suspected culprits Hallmark Group managing director Tanvir Mahmud and his wife Group Chairman Jesmin Islam sought time to appear before the ACC.
“We'll ask them to appear before the commission after the Eid,” said the ACC official.

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