Good to see int'l rules working
Anti-graft campaigners, politicians, ministers and independent analysts yesterday welcomed the recovery of the money that Arafat Rahman Koko and his aide had laundered. They termed it a major step towards the country's fight against corruption.
But the BNP, whose chairperson is the mother of Koko, said it was "politically motivated".
The reaction and counter-reaction followed the Anti-Corruption Commission's announcement yesterday that it had recovered 20.41 lakh Singapore dollars (over Tk 13 crore) laundered to Singapore by Koko, possibly between 2004 and 2007, when his mother Khaleda Zia was in power.
Koko has already been tried in absentia and given six years' jail term and fined around Tk 39 crore for laundering the amount together with his associate, Ismail Hossain Saimon.
In his reaction, Transparency International Bangladesh Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said, "It is definitely good news in terms of the capacity of the Anti-Corruption Commission and the government to curb corruption, and at the same time to bring back the assets laundered."
Awami League Joint General Secretary Mahbub-ul-Alam Hanif said the recovery established the truth that the BNP had indulged in corruption and money laundering during its tenure.
Khaleda Zia "should offer an unconditional apology" to the nation because she had been telling lies about the corruption of her two sons, he added.
Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said the recovery proved the main opposition party chairperson "is a blind, loving mother".
However, BNP lawmaker Mahbubuddin Khokon, who was a counsel for Koko in the money laundering case, said the ACC did not clearly say whether the money belonged to Koko or not.
"The money may be owned by the Singaporean company. So, the news that the government is circulating about the money belonging to Koko is politically motivated," he told The Daily Star.
Koko is neither a director nor a shareholder of any Singaporean company and he has no bank account there, he added.
Akbar Ali Khan, former caretaker government adviser, termed the recovery a very good development, but said this single incident would not bring about any significant change in the fight against money laundering.
"But if the government continues the battle against it and brings more money back to the country, it will send a strong message to people who siphon off money," he added.
Khondkar Ibrahim Khaled, chairman of Bangladesh Krishi Bank, echoed Akbar, saying: "It is a very good example. But the hurdle remains as money has been siphoned off to many other countries and we have to bring it back."
Some might see it as "politically motivated," but the fact is Koko would not have been able to launder the money if his mother were not in power, he added.
If Bangladesh becomes a member of Edmond Group, a global alliance of about 130 countries, it would be easier for the government to handle money laundering cases and bring the money back.
Workers' Party President Rashed Khan Menon said: "It is certain that Khaleda's two sons were engaged in corruption.
"Tarique Rahman and Koko are symbols of corruption. I urge Khaleda to put her two sons on the righteous path."
Jatiya Party Presidium Member Ziauddin Ahmed, also a political adviser to the party Chairman HM Ershad, said the truth had finally come out. It proved that Koko was involved in money laundering.
Matiur Rahman Akanda, assistant publicity secretary of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, a key political ally of the BNP, said his party would give its reaction after a getting a clear picture of the development.