Tk 74 lakh was going to house of Suranjit | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 06, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 06, 2012

Railwaygate Scandal

Tk 74 lakh was going to house of Suranjit

Whistleblower shows up 6 months after his 'disappearance'

Azam Khan

Appearing on the TV for the first time since the April 9 railwaygate scandal, whistleblower driver Azam Khan has said the Tk 74 lakh stashed in his car was being taken to the then railway minister Suranjit Sengupta's house.
“The money was being carried to Suranjit Sengupta's residence. But, I foiled the attempt. Money was taken [to Suranjit's house] several times before as well,” he said in an interview with Rtv aired first on Thursday night and throughout yesterday.
Azam, driver of Suranjit's ex-assistant personal secretary (APS) Omar Faruq Talukder, had been missing since the scandal surfaced.
Around 11:30pm on April 9, Azam drove Faruq's microbus into Pilkhana, and blew the whistle that there was illegal money in the vehicle.
Apart from Faruq, railway's general manager (east) Yusuf Ali Mridha and Dhaka division security commandant Enamul Huq were on the microbus. Faruq was sacked and Mridha and Enamul were suspended following the incident.
After the vehicle entered Pilkhana, the Border Guard Bangladesh detained the four for that night but freed them the next day.
“No, no, no. I had no link with anyone. I didn't take money from anybody promising jobs. Though later rumours were spread about me,” he said in the exclusive interview with Rtv's Bayezid Ahmed.
As he was driving into the BGB headquarters through gate No 4, Faruq asked him where he was going. “I said, 'sir, this is bribe money. Money taken from railway jobseekers. I will have you arrested with this money'," Azam told Rtv.
"Faruq said this is not right…. Then they offered me Tk 5 lakh and asked me to take them out of the gate. Later, Faruk offered me half the amount…. But I said, 'no, sir.' Finally, he offered me the whole amount."
Upon counting in the next morning, it turned out that there was Tk 74 lakh in the car, Azam said, adding that the trio -- Faruq, Mridha and Enamul -- along with the money went away in the car driven by another person they had already managed to have brought.
Initial reports said there was Tk 70 lakh in the car, which was part of the "bribe money" collected from jobseekers in the railway.
Faruk gave conflicting statements about the amount and source of the money. On April 10, he told UNB that there was Tk 25-30 lakh in his car and the money belonged to his brother-in-law. But in a written statement to the ACC on April 18, he said he was carrying Tk 70 lakh in his car that night. Of the sum, he earned Tk 45 lakh practising law and got the rest from his expatriate brother-in-law. He deposited Tk 70 lakh in his account with Mercantile Bank's Dhanmondi branch on April 11.
In the four-minute interview, Azam said one Major Mashiur Rahman was involved in the recruitment business. “As far as I know he was involved in a Tk 3 crore recruitment deal. He wanted to have several hundred people appointed in the railway through Omar Faruq.”
According to him, Faruq, a political appointee of the former rail minister, headed a syndicate of the recruitment business.
“I heard them talk in the car that they would give Tk 10 crore to the minister from the recruitment business. And 600 'personal' people of Suranjit Sengupta would be recruited."
However, it was not clear from the interview, given at an unspecified open field, if that discussion took place on the night of April 9 or on other occasions.
"They want to put the blame on the government. The minister was involved in the scam. There was a syndicate. They threatened me, saying that the government was involved in this."
"But I know the honourable prime minister is against corruption. Let no corrupt go unpunished. I appeal to the prime minister for my safety."
The railwaygate scandal led to the resignation of Suranjit Sengupta as minister on April 16, barely five months after he took office. However, the government in a dramatic move made him minister without portfolio the following day.
Suranjit, however, termed Azam's interview a "media creation".
“Why didn't he say this before? Why is he telling this now?" he told Rtv yesterday.
When pointed out by Rtv that Azam did not do so as Faruq and his men threatened his family on many occasions, Suranjit said, "This is pointless. 'Bogus story'. This is all being done to malign me. This is a media creation."
Earlier on April 15, Yusuf Ali Mridha in a written statement to the ACC said he along with Faruq and Enamul was going to Suranjit's Jigatola residence that night.
And though a government investigation found irregularities in the recruitment in the railway's east zone, a railway departmental report on May 13 gave a clean chit to Suranjit Sengupta, saying he had no involvement in the scandal.
According to railway sources, some 1,128 people were given jobs in the railway's east zone in the last one year. Allegations are Yusuf and Faruq took Tk 3 to 5 lakh from each of the jobseekers.
The government probe committee also found that Mridha and four other railway officials "changed the exam papers of many disqualified jobseekers in exchange for money".
Earlier on April 17, Azam's wife Swapna Aktar told Maasranga television that Faruq had been forcing Azam to drive the car with stashes of bribe money.
She said Azam had told her a few days ago that he would not carry illegal money any more.
“I told him, 'You are only a driver. You shouldn't bother about whether it is bribe money,'" Swapna said, adding, "But he [Azam] told me that he was unable to bear the burden any longer.”

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