Scamster Obaidul Karim gets 5 years | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 13, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 13, 2008

Money Laundering

Scamster Obaidul Karim gets 5 years

Obaidul Karim

A special court sentenced Orion Group Chairman Obaidul Karim to five years' rigorous imprisonment in a Tk 2 crore money-laundering case yesterday.
This is the third sentence against the Orion chief in eight months. He was condemned to life in an embezzlement case in December 2007 while in last June he got 13 years for accumulating illegal wealth and hiding information from the Anti-Corruption Commission.
The court, however, acquitted former Awami League (AL) lawmaker AHM Mostafa Kamal alias Lotus Kamal and his business group's general manager ABM Selim on the laundering charges.
Judge M Ashraf Hossain of Special Court 5, set up at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban complex, fined Obaidul Tk 2 crore, defaulting on which will earn him one year more behind bars.
The court also ordered for confiscation of Tk 2 crore from the Orion chairman. The sentence will be effective from the date of his arrest or surrender.
The Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case against the three with Gulshan Police Station on October 7 last year, on charges of laundering Tk 2 crore between May 21 and June 30, 2006.
Hailing the verdict, Lotus Kamal's counsel Syed Rezaur Rahman told reporters that the ruling was a step towards establishing justice and would dispel to some extent doubts as to getting justice.
The two tenures of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia (1991-96, 2001-06) saw the extraordinary rise of Obaidul Karim.
His proximity to the BNP chief in her capacity as the prime minister won him the privatised Kohinoor Chemical Industries Ltd in 1993, then a profit-making, stock-market-listed enterprise doling out dividends among shareholders.
Obaidul's other company listed on the stock market from 1994 is Orion Infusion Ltd (as Mala Chemical Industries), which he acquired in the '90s.
In the heady days leading to the 1996 stock-market meltdown, Orion announced big dividends and bonus shares to its shareholders, effectively pushing its share prices many times up and setting off a mad scramble for the "blue chip" shares.
The company, however, shied away from giving any dividend or bonus shares following the market crash prompting the Securities and Exchange Commission to file a case against it.
The case, however, made no headway. Nobody was either punished for the market manipulation. It was not until 2005 that shareholders would first receive any dividend.
Obaidul secured large business deals and projects between 2001 and 2006 and also got involved in large-scale financial scams. Most of the deals were awarded by manipulating tenders, violating rules and compromising national interests.
A Bangladesh Bank investigation into Oriental Bank's financial scam revealed that Obaidul siphoned off nearly Tk 600 crore from the bank.
Obaidul Karim's widely known ventures in recent years are: Gulistan-Jatrabari flyover, East West Airlines, City Centre, Meghnaghat 490MW power project, Green House Organic Farm, Jafflong Tea Company for which 2,000 acres of land were acquired in 2004, Noakhali Gold Food Ltd, GSA for Oman Air, GSA for Yemen Air, Aviation Management Services Ltd, maintenance and operation of Bangladesh China Friendship Conference Centre, real estates--Accom Centre Banani and Accom Nirvana Uttara, construction of the two-storey underground car parking at Hotel Sheraton and Tk 240 crore Hotel Sonargaon extension project.
The Gulistan-Jatrabari flyover and the Meghnaghat-2 power projects have recently been cancelled.
Orion grabbed the flyover project using the influence of BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Tarique Rahman.
Politicians, including Khaleda's political secretary Harris Chowdhury, heavily benefited from awarding the project to Orion. Obaidul allegedly gave a top BNP politician a house in the USA for helping him secure the deal on very "favourable" terms compromising national interests.
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.

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