The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has started initiatives to seize the immovable assets, business establishments, and bank accounts of Abzal Hossain, the suspended accountant of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), and his wife Rubina Khanam in Canada and Australia.
The commission has received confirmation that Abzal and Rubina have luxurious homes, businesses, and money in 18 bank accounts in those countries – all worth more than Tk50 crore.
The anti-graft watchdog has also received information that Abzal and his associates are trying to withdraw money by winding up these companies.
Therefore, the ACC has asked for support from the law enforcement agencies of the countries concerned.
According to the ACC, in March 2019, Abzal sold a home he owned in Ontario, Canada, for $383,000. Earlier in January, the ACC froze Abzal's movable and immovable assets following a Dhaka court order.
Sources at the commission said Abzal bought the Canadian house in 2014 for $100,000. He sourced the money from corruption in various procurements of the health department.
After selling the Canadian house, Abzal tried to sell another home he owned in New South Wales, Australia, by advertising online. The price of that house was about Australian $1 million.
After getting information, the ACC stopped the sale process with the help of the Australian police.
ACC Commissioner Dr Mozammel Haque Khan said, "Abzal had sold one of the two houses. We asked the Australian police for help after getting confirmation about another house."
According to ACC sources, the agency has confirmed that Abzal has 18 bank accounts in Canada and Australia.
Besides, in Sydney, he owns three businesses named R Five International, Mim Travels, and R Five Developers – which cover many businesses, including real estate.
The ACC commissioner said, "We are working to ensure that Abzal's assets are not sold, transferred or handed over. Besides, our investigation team is also searching for more of his assets."
According to the ACC, Abzal's salary was around Tk30,000. But he used to ride in a Harrier (a mid-size crossover SUV). Also, he and his wife own five houses in Uttara in the capital.
They also have at least 24 plots, flats and markets across the country. The market value of these assets is more than Tk1,000 crore.
The ACC has seized several high-rise buildings, flats, and plots. His bank account was also frozen in January 2019.
On 27 June last year, the ACC filed two cases against Abzal and his wife Rubina under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Money Laundering Act.
In the cases, allegations have been levelled against Abzal and his wife for embezzling illegal assets worth Tk36.30 crore and laundering money equivalent to more than Tk284 crore through long-term transfers, conversion, and exchange.
According to the case statement, Abzal accumulated wealth in the name of his wife to protect himself from coming under the corruption scanner, making her wealthier than he was. No legitimate sources of these funds were found.
The ACC's deposition provided evidence of money laundering of Tk20 crore against Abzal and Tk284 crore against his wife Rubina Khanam.
Abzal surrendered at court on 26 August after absconding for a long time after the case was filed. Since the surrender, he has been in jail. The ACC has sought the help of the police to arrest his wife, Rubina.
According to sources, Abzal hails from Faridpur. After passing the higher secondary exam in the third division in 1992, he did not continue studies. In 1995, on the recommendation of the then Health Minister Chowdhury Kamal Ibne Yusuf, he temporarily joined as an office assistant on the project of setting up five medical colleges of the Department of Health.
When the project was transferred to the revenue sector in 2000, he joined Faridpur Medical College as an office assistant. From there, he was transferred to Comilla Medical College as a cashier.
Abzal's wife, Rubina Khanam, joined Comilla Medical College in 1996 as a stenographer in the same project. After retiring voluntarily in 2000, she started a business named - Rahman Trade International.
According to concerned people, the organisation was set up by the Abzal and Rubina to do business in the health department.
Although he took a job as an office assistant (or clerk), Abzal Hossain soon became influential in the Health Department. Though he was recruited during the BNP regime, he was influential during all other government tenures, said concerned people.
The health department employees and officials alleged that Abzal accumulated wealth by activities like recruitment-transfer trade, tender bidding, contract control, collecting bills, and more.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of the Transparency International Bangladesh, thinks that corruption will not stop unless people like Abzal and his patrons are brought under the law.