A former deputy governor and a former general manager of the central bank were on the payroll of Prashant Kumar Halder alias PK Halder, who is on the run after siphoning off thousands of crores of Taka from Bangladesh, court sources said referring to a confessional statement.
The two officials of the Bangladesh Bank helped PK Halder – then managing director of International Leasing and Financial Services Ltd – to hush up his financial crimes so that the central bank cannot flag those.
Rashedul Haque, a close aide of Halder and also a former managing director of the leasing company, gave the confessional statement Tuesday.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) arrested Rashedul on 24 January. He is accused in five fraud cases of International Leasing.
Rashedul Haque returned home from Malaysia with a BBA degree and joined International Leasing as a probationary officer in 2000. In 2006-07, he joined the Industrial and Infrastructure Development Finance Company Ltd under Halder as an assistant vice-president, and developed a good relation with Halder there.
He joined Reliance Finance as senior vice-president in 2011-12 when PK Halder was its managing director.
According to the ACC investigation, PK Halder's financial frauds began at Reliance Finance.
In his confession to court, Rashedul said PK Halder used to approve and disburse loans to clients within a couple of days without any verification. In many cases, even the clients were in dark about loans taken in their names. Halder thus embezzled hundreds of crores of Taka.
Referring to the statement, court sources said some Reliance staffers used to aid Halder who would "manage" the Bangladesh Bank deputy governor.
Court sources further said the then central bank general manager, who is now an executive director of the Bangladesh Bank, used to take Tk2 lakh in bribe every month. Rashedul told the court that Reliance would hide the bribes in its miscellaneous costs.
Rashedul further said PK Halder requested him to become the managing director of International Leasing as he switched to the NRB Global Bank. Rashedul became the International Leasing MD in 2015, but Halder used to run the show.
To strengthen the grip over the company further, Halder brought some of his loyalists there from Reliance Finance.
Rashedul said most of the International Leasing customers were PK Halder's relatives and friends. If they applied for a loan, he would sign the loan proposal without any verification or mortgage.
PK Halder used to force board meetings to approve loans.
Rashedul further admitted to the court that all the board members were PK Halder's men. So they would approve the loans even after knowing that the applicants were ghost companies.
Despite being directors of International Leasing, Nowsher-ul-Islam, Momtaz Begum, Papia Banarjee and Basudeb Banarjee took loans from it against their ghost companies. They transferred the funds to multiple bank accounts, including those of Halder, withdrew those and laundered them abroad.
Rashedul Haque further admitted that he and his colleagues approved loans to ghost companies such as Anan Chemical, Rahman Chemical, and Northern Jute, while the funds ultimately ended up in PK Halder's hands.
According to court sources, Rashedul admitted that Shahid Reza, director of Mercantile Bank and chairman of Reza Group, is one of the close associates of PK Halder. Under the directives of Halder, Tk200 crore loans were disbursed to several ghost companies owned by Reza.
Besides, Siddiqur Rahman, owner of Simtex, Irfan Uddin Ahmed, former managing director of Bank Asia, Uzzal Kumar Nandi, chairman of People's Leasing, Razib Som, Kazi Momrez Mahmud, Swapan Kumar Biswas, Abhijit Adhikari, Amitabh Adhikari, Shankha Bepari, Sushmita Saha, Gopal Chandra Ganguly, Atashi Mridha, Amal Chandra Das and Ratan Kumar Biswas were also the associates of PK Halder.
PK Halder established the ghost companies using their NID cards.
Tk10 lakh gift for per audit
Court sources said Rashedul told the court that the Bangladesh Bank inspection team had audited International Leasing twice a year from 2015 to 2018. The two-member audit team got Tk10 lakh as gift every time to paint a rosy picture of the non-bank financial institute.
PK Halder also took hefty amounts from the leasing for gifts to the top central bank officials.
Amitabh Adhikari is PK Halder's cousin while Uzzal Kumar Nandi is PK Halder's former colleague. Nandi and Adhikari served People's Leasing and Financial Services Ltd as top officials from 2015 to 2019.
The duo used ghost companies to bring out money from International Leasing, and utilised the funds to become People's Leasing chairman and director. With the same trick they applied to International Leasing, they robbed People's Leasing too.
The ACC has been inquiring about PK Halder for a long time. On 25 January, the anti-graft watchdog filed a case accusing 31 people involved in Halder swindle.
Rashedul is accused in all the ACC cases. ACC sources said that a series of cases will be initiated soon.
On 8 January last year, the ACC filed a case against Halder for accumulating Tk275 crore illegally. The ACC investigation in the case is going on, and as part of it, PK Halder's cousin Shankha Bepari, associate Abantika Baral, tax lawyer Sukumar Mridha and his daughter Anindita Mridha have been arrested.