Five Years of BASIC Scam cases
- Although most reports mentioned Bachchu's name in the scam, the ACC did not include his name in the cases it filed
- No charge sheets submitted in 56 cases filed over the BASIC Bank scam in five years
- No one in the ACC could confirm when the charge sheets would be submitted
- As per ACC laws, probe into each case should be completed within a maximum of 180 working days
Former chairman of BASIC Bank Sheikh Abdul Hye alias Bachchu, who is believed to have masterminded the bank's Tk4,500 crore loan scam, still remains untouched by both the law enforcement agencies and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on the issue of his being brought to justice.
Even though most reports, including those of the Bangladesh Bank and the finance ministry, mentioned Bachchu's name in the scam, the ACC did not include his name in the cases filed by it.
Following a High Court directive, the anti-graft body interrogated Bachchu and the bank's board members but did not mention whether it would indict them in the charge sheets.
Furthermore, the ACC has not yet submitted the charge sheets in 56 cases filed over the BASIC Bank scam in the last five years.
No one in the ACC could confirm when the charge sheets would be submitted. However, the anti-graft watchdog claims that it is taking time to conduct a thorough investigation.
ACC laws stipulate that investigations into each case should be completed within a maximum of 180 working days. There is also a practice of giving extra time considering the scope and complexity of the investigation.
But concerning the BASIC Bank's 56 cases, an additional four and a half years have elapsed even after the stipulated time. No charge sheet has been submitted to the court yet. None can say when the charge sheets will be filed.
When asked, ACC Commissioner (inquiry) Dr Mozammel Haque Khan told The Business Standard, "Basic Bank's cases are very complicated. The fraudsters took money from the bank and laundered it to different places. It is challenging to identify the flow of money. Our officials are trying to dig out the money flow."
"We welcome everyone's concern about the investigation into these cases. We can guarantee that no one involved in this case will be released," he added.
Sources at the ACC said the commission, led by Chairman M Badiuzzaman, filed 56 cases over the BASIC bank scam in 2015.
In March 2016, the new commission of Iqbal Mahmood went all out and arrested some bankers and business people accused in the cases.
But later, the arrest operation came to a standstill. According to the sources, the commission then focused on the recovery of the money first. Through that initiative, around Tk1500 crore was retrieved, and more than Tk4500 crore in loans were rescheduled.
Alauddin A Majid, who was managing director of Basic Bank from April 28, 1996 to November 25, 2001, was appointed the bank's chairman in 2014 after the disastrous situation created during the tenure of Abdul Hye.
He served the bank for six years as chairman, his tenure ending in July this year. Majid told The Business Standard that the bank is now in a normal condition.
"Attempts are being made to recover the money embezzled from the bank. Efforts will continue," he said.
"I would say that whatever happened in the bank was not a misdemeanour or an irregularity; rather, there were theft and robbery in the bank. Those who have plundered the money will be forced to pay back. And the issue of punishment is beyond the jurisdiction of the bank. The ACC has filed cases, and the government is looking into the matter," he added.
ACC chairman Iqbal Mahmood has said several times that because of the ACC's all-out action against corruption in the banking sector, thousands of crore of taka stolen from the country's banking sector have been recovered.
Regarding the delay in submitting the charge sheets, he said the commission's investigators are searching for the money flow.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International, Bangladesh (TIB), an anti-corruption watchdog, expressed his frustration that the Basic Bank scamsters have not been charged in five years.
He said, "The ACC has the authority to investigate without considering the identity of the accused. If it fails to do so, its image will be questioned. The ACC still has time to bring the masterminds of the unprecedented scam to book."
The investigation report of the Tk4,500 crore embezzlement was sent to the ACC from the Bangladesh Bank in 2013. After a long inquiry, on September 21, 22 and 23 in 2015, the ACC filed 56 cases against 120 people with Motijheel, Paltan and Gulshan police stations. Allegations of the embezzlement of Tk2,037.85 crore were made in the cases.
Former Basic Bank managing director Kazi Fakhrul Islam and 26 other officials, 11 surveyors and 82 borrowers were charged. Later, the ACC filed 5 more cases in 2018. Of the embezzled Tk4,500 crore, the remaining Tk2,463 crore is still under inquiry.
The name of Sheikh Abdul Hye Bachchu has been mentioned the most in the scam. Most of the reports mentioned Abdul Hye's involvement.
Former finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhit blamed Abdul Hye Bachchu for the bank "robbery". The issue was also discussed in Parliament. Members of the parliamentary committee also expressed their displeasure over this.
Muhit said the involvement of the then chairman of the board of directors of Basic Bank Abdul Hye was found in the reports of external audit firms, appointed by the Bangladesh Bank and Basic Bank, in granting irregular loans, recruitment and promotion.
The anti-graft body has been criticised by different quarters, including anti-corruption activists and civil society, for not including Bachchu and board members in the cases filed by it.
A parliamentary standing committee summoned ACC investigators regarding the issues, but they did not appear before it.
Even the High Court criticised the issue and summoned the investigating officer of the ACC.
However, Bachchu was never summoned by the ACC during the inquiry. It summoned him for the first time in December 2016 in light of a court order. Bachchu has been interrogated five times by a team led by Director Syed Iqbal Hossain at the ACC office.
A former Jatiya Party lawmaker, Sheikh Abdul Hye Bachchu was made chairman of Basic Bank in 2009.
From then on, loans started increasing. He disbursed big loans of his own accord. Bachchu, who was close to the government, was the chairman of the bank up to 2014.
According to the Bangladesh Bank report, the total loans disbursed by Basic Bank up to December 2008 stood at Tk2700 crore, which shot up to Tk9373 crore till March 2013.
The bank disbursed loans to the tune of Tk6673 crore in the six years. Of them, Tk4500 was given by breaching the rules.