In the 1990s, Mohammad Ali, now the owner of Chattogram-based Imam Group, used to work as an ordinary staff in different shops in Khatunganj and Teribazar areas.
Gradually he made a place in the consumer goods market and eventually became a dominant player. Later, he expanded his businesses to various sectors like garments and import of machinery.
Mohammad Ali took loans from banks and financial institutions, apparently to run his business. But, allegedly, Ali really spent most of the borrowed money in purchasing land, violating credit terms in the first place.
A large amount of money that he borrowed from 15 banks and financial institutions got stuck when he started to make losses in consumer goods and land business after 2010. In this way, he defaulted on Tk793 crore.
In January this year, he fled to the United Arab Emirates after arrest warrants were issued against him in 55 cases filed by the banks and financial institutions concerned for defaulting on loans.
Seeking anonymity, an official of Imam Group said the arrest warrants were issued against the group's owner since the middle of last year.
Mohammad Ali was sentenced to one year in prison on 1 December last year in two check dishonour cases filed by Bank Asia. The trial of the case, filed against him with the money loan court in 2012, has been stayed by an order of the High Court.
A few months after the verdict, he took shelter in the house of a business partner in the city's Love Lane and hid himself there. He then left the country secretly in January for the UAE.
Ali, who now resides in his own flat in Dubai, is also reportedly planning to start a business in the UAE.
Meanwhile, his eldest son Ali Imam Munna is looking after his business under his directive, sources said. A week ago, Munna returned home from Dubai after meeting his father.
Ali's son could not be contacted for comments in the last two days on the phone despite repeated attempts.
The banks and the financial institutions filed most cases with money loan courts against Mohammad Ali between 2012 and 2013 to recover the default loans.
Mohammad Ali was once a member of the board of directors of the National Credit and Commerce Bank (NCC). Using this position he managed to get loans from various banks. He was later dropped from the NCC board after his share in the bank fell below 2% and he defaulted on the loans taken out from various banks.
Despite taking a stay order from the High Court on cases filed with the money loan court, he did not pay back anything to the banks and the financial institutions.
Master Trading, a company of Imam Group, owes Tk186 crore to National Bank's Agrabad branch.
In 2012, the bank filed a case against the company with the money loan court to recover the loan. Following the court's verdict in favour of the bank, an execution case is now going on to retrieve the money. The company took a stay order from the High Court against the case.
In the same year, Sonali Bank's Agrabad branch gave about Tk150 crore to Imam Group's Imam Traders. But the loan has not been recovered over the last decade. The hearing of the case filed against the company in 2012 is still going on.
Bank officials are now worried about recovering the money as the bank has no collateral against the loan and the case has not been settled for eight long years.
Sonali Bank's General Manager Jahangir Alam said the loan was given to the company because of its good business volume and good transactions with the bank. But the company spent the money on purchasing land instead of investing in the business. It is taking a long time to get a verdict even if the case was filed after the loan got stuck.
Anika Enterprise, another entity of the group, owes Tk137 crore to Krishi Bank. The company took the loan for the purpose of investing in an agricultural project. In 2013, the bank authorities filed a case against the company to recover the money. The case is currently pending.
Another company of the group named Romana Enterprise defaulted on Tk34 crore of Bank Asia. The bank has no collateral against this amount. The loans taken for the import of consumer goods at different times between 2004 and 2005 have not been repaid even in the last decade and a half.
Imam Group owes Tk61 crore to the Agrabad branch of Uttara Bank. This loan was taken in 2008 for the import of consumer goods. In 2013, the bank authorities filed a case against the company with the money loan court. The case is currently at the stage of recording testimonies of witnesses in the court. Besides, the case filed over cheques dishonour is currently awaiting the verdict.
Apart from these banks, Imam Group owes Tk65 crore to Exim Bank, Tk61 crore to IFIC Bank, Tk47 crore to Prime Bank, Tk19 crore to Dutch Bangla Bank, Tk10 crore to Jamuna Bank, Tk8 crore to National Housing, Tk7 crore to Dhaka Bank, Tk4 crore to Trust Bank and Tk2 crore to United Commercial Bank Limited (UCBL), and Tk1.5 crore to Agrani Bank.
Although the amount could not be ascertained, Imam Group is reported to have defaulted big amounts of Bangladesh Industrial Finance Company Limited, sources said.
Meanwhile, Exim Bank, Dutch Bangla Bank and UCBL have entered into an agreement with Imam Group on loan repayment, according to bank sources.
At one time, Imam Group ran the business of more than 20 companies but now only Imam Button Industries Ltd is in operation.
The company, listed with the stock market, has been suffering losses for a long time and shareholders have not received any dividends since 2011.
In the nine months of last fiscal year, the net loss of the company increased by 74.42% compared to the previous year's.
In January-March of the fiscal 2019-20, the net loss of the company increased by 225.42% over the same time a year ago.
During this period, its loss in retained earnings was Tk4.39 crore. The management did not recommend any dividend for its shareholders for a few years.
The company was incorporated in 1994 and was listed on both stock exchanges in 1996. The company provides buttons for the apparel sector.
Imam Group reportedly owns land and several buildings in different parts of Chattagram city. The company has several acres of land in Dangachar area on the south bank of the Karnaphuli River, according to sources.