The investigation into the non-funded part of the Hall-Mark loan scam, one of the biggest scandals in the country's financial sector, has resumed seven years after the case was filed in connection with a mega fraud in the funded portion.
After the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed 38 cases at different times in 2012 following an investigation into the scam in the funded part, the probe into the non-funded portion was almost put on hold.
Although an investigation team was formed in 2015, no considerable progress was made in this regard.
ACC Commissioner Mozammel Haque Khan said on Tuesday that next steps would be taken after reviewing the report submitted by the eight-member team, formed by the Commission to restructure the investigation unit.
The team is tasked with checking for any corruption in financial transactions between 41 banks and branches.
The ACC Commissioner further said, "Although called non-funded, it is essentially fully funded. Earlier, the ACC had also filed a case in this regard."
Khondkar Ibrahim Khaled, an economist and former deputy governor of the Bangladesh Bank, criticized the slow pace of investigation into the Hall-Mark fraud.
He said when those involved in criminal activities appear to be strong or are in collusion with the ruling party, different committees are formed, thus leading to the deployment of different tactics to save them.
"I do not know whether that has happened in this case. But the investigation should have wrapped up much faster."
Director Mir Mohammad Zainul Abedin Shibli has been made the head of ACC's eight-member investigation team.
The other members are Deputy Directors of the Commission, SM Akhter Hamid Bhuiyan, Mashiur Rahman and Selina Akhter Moni; Assistant Directors, Muhammad Joynal Abedin and Sylvia Ferdous, and Deputy Directors, Sahidur Rahman and Afnan Jannat Keya.
This eight-person team filed the case about seven years ago after investigating the funded portion of the Hall-Mark scandal. A charge sheet was submitted to the court.
According to the ACC, six companies, including Hall-Mark, embezzled Tk3,569 crore from Sonali Bank's Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch. The ACC began investigating this case in 2012.
After investigation into the embezzlement of Tk1,056 crore paid against the approved bill of Sonali Bank, the ACC filed 11 cases against 27 people on October 4, 2012. The accused included Hall-Mark Group Managing Director (MD), Tanvir Mahmud, his wife and Group Chairman Jasmine Islam; former MD of Sonali Bank, Humayun Kabir; Deputy General Manager of Sonali Bank's Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch, AKM Azizur Rahman.
Some of the accused are currently in jail, including Hall-Mark MD Tanvir; AKM Azizur Rahman has died. Charge sheets were also submitted to the court after the investigation into these cases, a few of which are under trial.
27 cases have been filed against the remaining five companies on the charge of embezzling Tk386 crore.
A huge amount of money was also withdrawn from Sonali Bank's Ruposhi Bangla branch and 41 other commercial banks against some bills under the guise of supplying goods for Hall-Mark Group.
The amount of money released in Hall-Mark's name from Sonali Bank's Ruposhi Bangla branch is funded, and the amount received by other banks from Sonali Bank in this process is non-funded.
An investigation by Sonali Bank found that 2,186 bills against the non-funded portion of Tk1,500 crore were found to be counterfeit. Against those bills, Tk1,500 crore was withdrawn from 110 branches of 41 banks.
However, no money was released against the bill, which is non-funded for Sonali Bank. The ACC was waiting for the full report to investigate the non-funded portion.
In response to a letter from ACC, Sonali Bank sent a 6,000-page report on 16 June 2015 to the Special Investigation and Investigation Department of the Anti-Corruption Commission.
The report finds an embezzlement of Tk1,100 crore against 1,581 bills.
Upon receiving the report, the matter was discussed during the ACC's regular meeting on 22 June. In August, the commission decided to investigate the non-funded part of the Hall-Mark scandal.
In light of that decision, the ACC formed an investigation team headed by Mir Zainul Abedin Shibli, although the investigation has not progressed thus far.
According to several sources involved in preparing the report, a review of 1,581 bills against the non-funded Tk1,100 crore has been sent to the ACC.
They have no further reports on the non-funded portion of the Hall-Mark scandal.
After the Hall-Mark scandal was discovered, Sonali Bank found an account of Tk1,500 crore for the non-funded portion, where the report referenced a figure of Tk1,400 crore.
A report on the embezzlement of Tk1,100 crore has been sent to the ACC. The bank explained away the discrepancy by saying that their local and foreign branches had paid the remaining Tk300 crore against some recognized bills.
Of this amount, Tk75 crore has been accounted for against the 225 bills paid by the Bangladesh Bank.
The International Chamber of Commerce's (ICC) Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits (UCPDC) provision recommends payment against recognized bills. This same provision does not apply to fraudulent bills.