HC orders probe into S Alam’s ‘properties abroad’
The High Court yesterday directed the authorities to investigate the allegations against the S Alam Group owner of owning businesses abroad without Bangladesh Bank's permission.
There are allegations that Mohammed Saiful Alam, owner of S Alam Group, has many properties abroad, including a business empire worth almost $1 billion in Singapore.
The court yesterday ordered the Anti-Corruption Commission, Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) and Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police to launch the investigation and submit their reports to the HC in two months, Deputy Attorney General Saifuddin Khaled told The Daily Star.
The suo moto (voluntary) rule comes after The Daily Star on August 4 published a report titled "S Alam's Aladdin's Lamp".
The HC asked the Bangladesh Bank governor to come up with a report clarifying whether the money in question was transferred abroad without permission and approval from the central bank.
The court also asked the government officials concerned to explain why their inaction and failure to prevent money laundering, if any, by the S Alam Group owner should not be declared illegal.
The court ordered the respondents to show causes as to why they should not be directed to enquire into the matter disclosed in The Daily Star report and why they should not be ordered to take appropriate legal steps against the individuals and entities, if any, involved in the commission of corruption and money laundering in accordance with the law.
The HC bench of Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder and Justice Khizir Hayat Lizu issued the order and rule after Supreme Court lawyer Syed Sayedul Haque Suman placed The Daily Star report before the bench and sought necessary directives.
Secretaries at the ministries of finance and home affairs; governor of Bangladesh Bank; ACC chairman; heads of Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) and CID; and chairman of National Board of Revenue (NBR) have been made respondents to the rule, Sayedul Haque Suman told The Daily Star.
The HC asked The Daily Star editor to submit an affidavit with regard to the authenticity of its report published on August 4 and the documents, if there is any, to this court in two months and fixed October 8 for passing further order on this issue.
Full text of the HC order and rule have yet to be released.
During the proceedings, the bench said that money laundering is a white collar crime and it seriously affects the interest and welfare of the country.
The allegation should be examined to check whether it is true or false.
If the allegation is not correct, S Alam will submit an affidavit before this court and the confusion, if any, will be gone, the HC bench added.
There is no scope to see this offence leniently, the HC bench said, adding that nobody can transfer money abroad from Bangladesh without permission from Bangladesh Bank.
Sayedul told the court that during the colonial rule, the British had taken money from Bangladesh to their countries.
"At present, we ourselves transfer the money from Bangladesh to foreign countries," he said, adding that if Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were alive, he would have been shocked.
Lawyer Sayedul said those who laundered money to Singapore could have made Bangladesh a country like Singapore.
But they made Singapore richer by laundering money from Bangladesh, he said.
Citing The Daily Star report, he said several Bangladesh Bank officials have refused to disclose their names.
If they have no courage to disclose their names, one must ask how they can run the regulatory bank, he said.
ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan told the HC bench that the central bank does not permit offshore banking, which is used to launder money.
There should be an enquiry into the allegations mentioned in The Daily Star report, he added.
DAG Saifuddin Khaled, who represented the state, told the HC that no property has been amassed abroad in the name of S Alam Group.
If lawyer Sayedul moves a writ petition instead of seeking a suo moto order, S Alam Group can reply to the rule, he said.
According to The Daily Star investigative report, S Alam Group owner Saiful Alam has built a business empire in Singapore worth about $1 billion, although there is no record of him taking any permission from Bangladesh Bank to invest or transfer any funds abroad.
The Bangladesh central bank has so far allowed 17 companies to invest outside the country, and this Chattogram-based business giant is not one of them.
In Singapore, Alam bought at least two hotels, two homes, one retail space, and other properties over the last one decade, all the while seeking to remove his name from the paper trails, documents cited by the report show.