Harris the fortune-maker | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 15, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 15, 2008

Harris the fortune-maker

‘No income’ before 2001, multimillionaire without business in next 5 years

Former premier Khaleda Zia's political secretary Harris Chowdhury can be a role model for anyone wishing to be a multimillionaire in five years without much official sources of income.
Though he claimed to have been a businessman, government investigators have found that he didn't have any major source of income until 2001. After joining the Prime Minister's Office in 2001, he made a wealth of at least Tk 85 crore before fleeing the country in early 2007.
Harris drew only Tk 27.48 lakh from the Sonali Bank's PMO Branch as salary in the five years of his service as the prime minister's political secretary. His last tax return submitted to the National Board of Revenue shows his wealth is worth over Tk 12 lakh.
The secret to his phenomenal wealth is taking bribes against different government procurement, according to investigators of the Task Force and the Anti-Corruption Commission.
"Harris has been the only high-profile corrupt BNP leader who had access to both Hawa Bhaban led by Khaleda Zia's elder son Tarique Rahman and the PMO," says a Task Force member who investigated his corruption for more than a year.
Harris, who is reportedly living in a luxurious apartment in London, amassed huge illegal wealth misusing the power of PMO as well as 'Hawa Bhaban', which was controversial alternative powerhouse of the BNP-Jamaat-led alliance government.
As soon as he gained authority, he concentrated his greedy eyes on the country's power plants, stopping power projects to realise crores of taka from different power companies.
Harris devised innovative ways to amass wealth; he used to take bribes from different business houses, aspiring nomination seekers and a large section of government employees for their promotion and transfer. Besides, he made quick bucks even through appointment of government employees and also through intimidation.
As he enjoyed both Khaleda and Tarique's support, everyone -- top-level government officials, big business houses, different types of organisations and individuals from different sectors had to pay him in cash and kind.
His entire family -- his wife, son, daughter, brother, brother's wife, a business partner, and some other people including a government official, who is still in service, -- were partners of his financial crimes. The family also disappeared since the Fakhruddin-led government assumed power.
Sources involved in investigations say most of his Tk 85.88-crore movable and immovable property amassed through illegal means has been kept in possession of his crime partners.
Harris has already been handed down 65 years' prison in three separate graft cases.
Josne Ara Chowdhury, his wife, abetted him in accumulating and keeping possession of wealth worth over Tk 3.9 crore. Their son Nayem Shafi Chowdhury and daughter Samira Tanjin abetted Harris in accumulating wealth worth over Tk 5 crore and over Tk 6 crore respectively.
His younger brother Selim Chowdhury alias Amran Hossain Chowdhury alias Chowdhury AH and his wife Jahanara Hossain Chowdhury abetted Harris in amassing wealth worth over Tk 28 crore and Tk 1.13 crore respectively.
Besides, Amran also secured Harris' interest by holding on the post of director of One Entertainment and Lira Industrial Enterprise Ltd, property Harris accumulated beyond known sources of income.
Amran amassed the property in different names -- Amran Hossain Chowdhury, Selim Chowdhury and Chowdhury AH -- and maintained accounts in different banks under these names.
Harris's elder sister Akhlasun Nahar helped her brother amass wealth worth over Tk 3.68 crore and kept the money by opening accounts and buying shares in her name. Nahar also kept shares worth over Tk 42.51 lakh in her name.
His business partner Younus Ali helped him accumulate wealth worth Tk 1.5 crore beyond known sources of income between January and July in 2007 and conceal the property. Younus also helped him keep Tk 1.23 crore in his own name.
Harris's political friend Mosharraf Hossain Thakur, secretary of BNP's cultural front Jasas, also helped him accumulate Tk 41.03 lakh beyond known sources of income by using own bank account and buying shares.
Thakur also kept in his name Tk 21-lakh shares owned by Harris. He bought shares worth Tk 21.03 lakh from National Tea Company following order from Harris, who kept the shares in his possession and took the profit.
Investigation sources say they have learned that Thakur always tried to keep Harris pleased to get nomination and gave him money as per his demand.
Akhlasun Nahar's son Tarique Shams also abetted Harris in accumulating Tk 2.11 crore by keeping that money in his bank account. He also helped Harris in accumulating Tk 44 lakh and concealing the amount by keeping it in his possession.
Ziaul Islam, who was APS to Harris during the latter's 'happy days', was the main partner of Harris's corruption and is now a joint secretary of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), sources say.
Harris's main "minion" Ziaul gathered wealth beyond known sources of income in the former's name from different institutions and individuals and deposited those to his own accounts in the Standard Chartered Bank, Dutch Bangla Bank and Mercantile Bank.
Ziaul also helped Harris amass immovable wealth through illegal means by intimidating people with threats and made false declaration claiming the wealth as his family property.
Ziaul rented the property by signing a deed in his name and deposited money to his accounts and helped Harris conceal the property.
He also abetted Harris amassing Tk 7.93 crore beyond known sources of income by purchasing shares and kept the money deposited under his name.
Following Harris's direction, he also hired two lockers under his and his wife's names and kept documents regarding Harris's residence and shares into those.
In the end of his service as APS, Ziaul handed over the lockers to his younger sister's husband Rajibul Islam at the direction of Harris. He also used to rent residences owned by Samira Tanjin in Bashundhara and Gulshan, flat owned by Nayem in Dhanmondi, and flat owned by Josne Ara in Lakeview and collected rents on behalf of them. Zia deposited the rents to his accounts in the Standard Chartered Bank and Dutch Bangla Bank.
Investigators found that Samira Tanjin and Shafi have been made nominees while opening Ziaul's bank accounts with Dutch Bangla Bank Ltd and Standard Chartered Bank Ltd respectively.
They also found that the flat owned by Nayem was acquired by pressurising former public works secretary Iqbal Uddin Chowdhury. Investigation reveals that the money people gave to Harris was deposited to Ziaul's account as per his diktat.
The investigators add Harris' wife and children travelled abroad more than once every year.
Ziaul used to tell tenants of Harris' houses and flats that his brother who lives abroad owns the property. After BNP-led government's tenure ended, he returned documents of the residences and deeds to Harris.
Harris amassed movable property worth over Tk 72.69 crore beyond known sources of income. Of the movable property, over Tk 10.52 crore was spent in buying shares, which were seized by Paltan police, over Tk 63.89 lakh found as balance in different banks, over Tk 5.15 crore spent in purchasing savings certificates and FDRs, over Tk 3.73 crore in purchasing shares in One Entertainment Ltd, and over Tk 2.10 crore was found as investment to Lira Industrial Enterprise through KM Alamgir.
He also kept over Tk 2.55 crore to his friend Fakir Mahbub Anam, Tk 27.9 lakh to Khasuruzzaman Chowdhury, brother of his UK expatriate friend living in Sylhet, over Tk 1.23 crore to Younus Ali, and Tk 45.2 lakh to Tarique Shams.
He drew over Tk 1.12 crore through Ziaul and deposited the money under his and family members' names. Apart from these, he also owns furniture worth Tk 14.15lakh and three cars worth Tk 80 lakh.
Of the rest amount of over Tk 43.95 crore, Harris spent some in maintaining luxurious life, while the rest was shifted to other places.
Investigators have learned that Harris owns wealth in different countries including a house in London. More investigation is being conducted regarding the matter.
The Investigators say he has more wealth and property both in home and abroad beyond known sources of income which cannot be traced.
Before 2001, Harris Chowdhury was the president of National Institute for Deaf and Dumb when he hired eight to nine shops of the institution and launched car business through 'Asha Car Vision' under his wife's name. After 2001, he rented all the shops at a higher rate except for one used by his brother.
At that time Harris was a tenant at a house in Bijoy Nagar in the capital. But everything changed overnight and he left his business and residence when BNP assumed power in 2001 and he became Khaleda's political secretary.
He embarked on amassing wealth through illegal means and sent his offspring to London for study.
He travelled to Singapore and Malaysia five times along with his friends and wife for expensive treatment as he has been suffering from cancer for ten years.
More to add to the travel list, Harris along with his wife also performed Umrah Hajj five times on his own expenses.
Investigators say Harris owned wealth worth over Tk 4.46 lakh in his name and Tk 6.41 lakh in his wife's name before 2001. He also had wealth worth over Tk 1.91 lakh in the name of Amran and Tk 4.5 lakh in the name of Jahanara Hossain.
The investigators say there was no wealth shown in the names of his offspring until 2001.
Interestingly, Harris showed Tk 39.9 lakh and Tk 96.65 lakh in the name of his son and daughter in June 2003. The declaration didn't have any known source of income.
The investigators go on to say the wealth they have found in the name of Harris's son is 12 times higher than the declaration in 2003. His daughter's present wealth is seven times higher than her declaration the same year.
Talking to The Daily Star, Ziaul Islam, acting director, marine safety and traffic management, BIWTA, said, "All the money belongs to Harris. I had to abet him due to pressure and intimidation."
"Many times I denied carrying out such activities but he threatened me with termination of my job.
"He [Harris] was a very cunning man. Had I not helped him in doing corruption, I would have been behind bars many years ago.
"He made me mentally weak applying different means. He had my wife transferred to Barisal when she was working in a ministry. Being the APS of such a man, I couldn't hold back the transfer order. Only when I agreed to obey his diktats, he let her return to Dhaka.
"He forced me to open all the bank accounts under my name and kept the checkbooks with all the pages signed beforehand. I had never amassed any wealth by intimidating anyone.
"Harris himself was a tiger. I didn't need to intimidate people on his behalf.
"Harris is living well and fine along with his family as usual in London, while I am facing cases and may be imprisoned soon," Ziaul added.

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