Police have unearthed a scam where over Tk10 crore was swindled from the Office of the Controller General of Accounts (CGA) through bill fraud over several years. The racket includes police personnel as well as bank and CGA officials.
This is how they did it. First, they would make a false bill of wages of employees of the Dhaka Range Deputy Inspector General's (DIG) Office. The bill would be submitted to the auditor concerned of the CGA as per the rules.
An auditor of the police branch would then check the bill and put a token on it using the auditor's ID and password. After that, the auditor and the audit super would sign the bill.
The audit super would then input the bill into the computer and approve it from his own ID. It would then automatically go to the accounts officer's ID.
The accounts officer would then electronically transfer funds from his ID to the auditor. Three officials of the CGA would verify the bill. The auditor and the audit super would then pass the bill and send it to the cash section.
After inputting the bill in the Integrated Budget and Accounting System (IBAS++), it would be registered and a cheque would be issued. The cheque would then be submitted to a bank and cash would be withdrawn.
The police inspector and the assistant sub-inspector working in the salary section of the Dhaka Range DIG Office thus passed 59 bills from the CGA in the last few years and swindled Tk10.82 crore. Some unscrupulous employees of the CGA colluded with the two policemen while corrupt bank officials, without verifying the cheques, helped them withdraw the money.
Police captured two members of the racket when they were withdrawing cash after submitting a cheque to the Kakrail branch of Sonali Bank in September 2019. The Tk35 lakh cheque was issued against wages of employees of the Dhaka Range DIG Office for the financial year 2019-20.
The arrestees are police Inspector Mir Abul Kalam Azad and Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Mostafizur Rahman. According to a police investigation report, Azad was later suspended and Mostafizur was sacked but the racket's other members are at-large.
CGA employees claimed the two policemen had committed the bill fraud by hacking into the system. But the police report said Accountant Shamsul Haque and Audit and Accounts Officer AKM Touhidul Alam could not show any papers of the Tk35 lakh bill issued in Azad's name.
Touhidul declined to comment on the matter when these reporters went to his office.
Saleh Mohammad Tanvir, then-additional DIG of the Dhaka Range DIG Office and the current commissioner of Chattogram Metropolitan Police, led the five-member investigation team. He told The Business Standard they had received allegations that Inspector Azad had collected some extra cheques from the CGA.
"A bill has to be issued before withdrawing money through a government cheque. The cheques Azad had collected contained no bill from the Dhaka Range DIG Office," he added.
He said the Dhaka Range DIG Office was not involved in this incident but Azad and ASI Mostafizur had worked at that office. "They had gone to the CGA and committed the fraud. Someone from the CGA had connived with them as those cheques are kept in the Dhaka CGA."
When Azad went to Sonali Bank's Kakrail branch to submit the Tk35 lakh cheque in September 2019, bank officials sent the cheque to the Bangladesh Bank for verification. Officials at the central bank suspected that there was something wrong with the cheque.
They discovered that the cheque contained a fake signature of Shafiqul Islam, audit and accounts officer at the home ministry. They did not clear the cheque and informed the CGA of the matter.
Shafiqul then filed a case with Ramna Police Station in this connection. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is now investigating it.
"I heard that the High Court had stayed the case and the accused is out on bail," Shafiqul told The Business Standard.
He declined to comment when asked if anyone in the CGA had been involved in the fraud. He thinks the crime may have been committed by hacking the IDs of CGA office employees.
How the fraud was unearthed
An inconsistency emerged between the salary budget of Dhaka Range DIG Office employees for the financial year 2019-20 and the expenditure shown by the Office of the Chief Accounts Officer of the Home Ministry, including the remaining amount.
The police investigation later found that Azad on different occasions had had 59 cheques involving the amount of Tk11.17 crore issued from the CGA through bill frauds. Of the amount, he had withdrawn Tk10.82 crore.
Moreover, Sonali Bank's Kakrail branch manager and some officials had received benefits illegally by colluding with Azad to cash 49 of the 59 cheques. Officials of Al-Arafah Islami Bank's VIP Road branch played a similar role in cashing the remaining 10 cheques.
The probe committee received no response after asking bank officials why cheques had been cashed without verification. Bank officials said no information would be provided unless sought by the court.
The committee then said the ACC should probe the matter since the latter's jurisdiction includes banks.
Statements of CGA employees
Police received the depositions of several employees of the police branch of the CGA office during the investigation. Most of the officials said they had been unaware of the fraud.
Auditor Rafiqul Islam gave depositions twice. In his first deposition on 10 February last year, he said he had not put tokens on or passed any such fraud bill between October 2018, when he joined Home Ministry Police Branch 1, and July 2019.
In the second deposition given the following day, he said he had no idea whether his password had been used to put tokens on bills or input bills into the computer.
He also said he had no idea how the fraud had been committed by dodging auditors and officials.
Mohammad Monir Hossain of Police Branch 1, then SAS superintendent of cash branch Zafar Ullah, and auditor Ripon Ara Chowdhury also gave their statements. They all claimed they had not been aware of the fraud.
Shafiqul, whose signature was forged in the Tk35 lakh cheque, said, "I do not know how the cheque was issued in Azad's name."
Recommendations of the probe committee
The committee said further investigations should be carried out by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) after filing money laundering cases against the chief accounts and finance officer, the two policemen and the bank officials concerned.
To stop such fraud, the committee recommended making monthly allocations for all police unit offices, including the Dhaka Range DIG Office, instead of annual allocations.
It recommended ensuring that banks do not disburse money without the clearance of drawing and disbursing officials.
The committee also recommended forming a high-level committee comprising officials of police headquarters, the finance ministry, the CGA, and the CID to determine the next course of action.