Scamster Obaidul Karim gets 13yrs | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 26, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 26, 2008

Ill-gotten Wealth

Scamster Obaidul Karim gets 13yrs

His Tk 50cr assets to be confiscated

Obaidul Karim

A special court yesterday sentenced Orion Group Chairman Obaidul Karim to 13 years' rigorous imprisonment for amassing wealth illegally and concealing information on assets in his statement submitted to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
Judge Khandaker Kamal Uz-zaman of Special Court-9 set up on the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban premises also fined Obaidul Tk 10 lakh, in default of which he will have to serve one more year behind bars.
The court also ordered the authorities concerned to confiscate his illegally earned wealth worth Tk 50.92 crore.
Obaidul was handed 10 years' imprisonment for accumulating wealth illegally and three years for concealing information about his actual wealth.
The sentences will run consecutively.
As Obaidul has been absconding, the sentences will come into effect the day he surrenders or is arrested.
ACC Deputy Director Abdul Karim filed the case with Ramna Police Station on October 8 last year.
On December 27 last year, another special court sentenced Obaidul to life imprisonment in an embezzlement case.
Obaidul Karim's phenomenal rise in the business world happened during the two regimes of Khaleda Zia--the first from the early 1990s and then from 2001.
Through his closeness with the BNP chief, Obaidul in 1993 won the tender for acquiring Kohinoor Chemical Industries Ltd, a profitable state-owned enterprise listed at that time in the securities market giving dividends to its shareholders.
Obaidul's only other venture that is listed in the share market from 1994 is the Orion Infusion Ltd (as Mala Chemical Industries), which he acquired in the '90s.
In 1996, when the country's share market fell victim to big-time financial predators Orion announced large dividends and bonus shares to its shareholders. This pushed up the price of Orion's shares many folds. However, after the share market crashed Orion did not offer any dividend or bonus share, which prompted the Securities Exchange Commission to file a case against the company. But the case later became ineffective.
Nobody was punished for the deliberate market manipulation while Orion shareholders counted huge loss. It was not until 2005 that its shareholders would first receive any dividend. Orion also offered dividends by 10 percent in 2006.
Investigations show that between 2001 and 2006 Obaidul bagged large businesses and projects and also got involved with large-scale financial scams. Most of these deals were awarded by the BNP-led alliance government by manipulating tenders, violating rules and compromising the national interest.
A Bangladesh Bank investigation into Oriental Bank's financial scam revealed that Obaidul has siphoned off nearly Tk 600 crore from the bank illegally.
Obaidul Karim's widely known ventures in recent years are: Gulistan-Jatrabari flyover (to be constructed by Belhasa Accom and Associates, a concern of the Orion Group), East West Airlines (given operation licence in 2005), City Centre, a 37-storey commercial and parking centre at Motijheel, Meghnaghat 490MW power project (won by Orion's shell company BON Consortium), Green House Organic Farm (an export-oriented mushroom farm yet to be launched), Jafflong Tea Company for which 2,000 acres of garden was acquired in 2004, Noakhali Gold Food Ltd (a fish processing plant installed recently), GSA for Oman Air, GSA for Yemen Air, Aviation Management Services Ltd (installation and operation of cargo scanning facility at the Zia International Airport), maintenance and operation of Bangladesh China Friendship Conference Centre (awarded to Orion by manipulating tender in 2005), real estates--Accom Centre Banani and Accom Nirvana Uttara, construction of the two-storey underground car parking at Hotel Sheraton (by Arab Constructions) and the Tk 240 crore Hotel Sonargaon extension project.
Of these deals, the Gulistan-Jatrabari flyover project and the Meghnaghat-2 power project fell flat.
Using the influence of Khaleda's son and BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Tarique Rahman, Orion got the flyover project although there was a better offer. Huge bribes were allegedly given to various political figures including Khaleda's political secretary Harris Chowdhury. Obaidul also allegedly gave a top BNP politician a house in the USA for helping him get this project on a very "favourable" term by compromising national interest.
Bagging the City Centre deal is another example of blatant favouritism. The Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) awarded this 37-storey commercial building project at a nominal price to Belhasa Accom JV. This building will offer 10 floors of free car parking, a convention centre, a restaurant, a business lounge to accommodate emergency meetings, a gymnasium, a helipad for flying into the centre in style and roads on all four sides. This, however, cannot serve the purpose of providing adequate parking space for the office-goers in Motijheel commercial area as was intended by the DCC.

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