From a small fry dealing in consumer goods in Khatunganj of the port city to a big importer, Shah Alam's rise as a business tycoon is much like others – becoming a big borrower and turning into a habitual defaulter in course of time.
But this Chattogram businessman is a lot smarter and craftier than others. He managed to get away from the country to avoid being netted in legal traps by his creditor banks.
Shah Alam is now living in Malaysia with his wife, a son and daughter-in-law without paying back a loan of Tk300 crore his company Alam and Co owes to eight banks.
Officials of these banks say the businessman got the loans with the blessings of his political clout rather than his business acumen.
The volume of his assets multiplied year on year with the help of bank support, but the Khatunganj trader shied away from loan repayment.
According to sources, eight banks have so far filed 54 cases against him for a default loan of about Tk300 crore.
Forty-seven of these were filed under the Negotiable Instrument (NI) act and the remaining seven with the money loan court in Chattogram.
Last year, Shah Alam was sentenced to six years in six cases filed under the NI act.
Verdicts in four cases filed with the money loan court by NCC Bank, One Bank, Social Islami Bank and Eastern Bank have also been handed down.
For the past 10 years, creditors were chasing him through legal means, but Shah Alam had been procrastinating over the repayment obtaining a stay order from the High Court.
When the court stay order was vacated and the verdicts started coming in early 2019, the owner of Alam and Co had already fled to Malaysia with his family towards the end of 2018, creditor banks and family sources confirmed.
Shah Alam is reported to move between Malaysia, India and Indonesia for different purposes.
Although his wife Ayesha Begum returned to Bangladesh in October 2020, Shah Alam himself stayed back in Kuala Lumpur with his son and daughter-in-law.
Sources said Moni, the second son of Shah Alam, has long been living in Malaysia after marrying a Malaysian citizen of Indian descent.
Talking over the issue with Khulshi Police Station Officer-in-Charge Mohammad Shahinuzzaman and Warrant Officer Anwar Hossain, it was learnt that the police went to Shah Alam's house in South Khulshi several times to catch him, but he was not found there.
"We have learnt through various sources that he has fled abroad," said the officer-in-charge.
In the absence of Shah Alam, his eldest son Parvez Alam Hira oversees his business. Parvez's wife Khadijatul Anwar Soni is a lawmaker from women's reserved seat No 6.
Parvez did not pick up any of our calls when contacted for his statement on the default loan sanctioned against their property.
The owner of Alam and Co inherits Hotel Hero City in the Sadarghat area of Chattogram.
Shah Alam started a business of consumer goods in Khatunganj in 2000. After that till 2011-12, he took loans from various banks in the name of trade and import of consumer goods – a sector where most banks disbursed loans on easy terms at that time.
Bank Asia Executive Vice-President and Zonal Head (Chattogram) AKM Saiful Islam told The Business Standard that Shah Alam managed the bank's top officials to get the loan but did not invest that in his business. "He spent the money on land purchase instead," he said.
A major customer of Sadarghat branch of Pubali Bank, Alam and Co. owes Tk52 crore to the bank. The BSRM agent and local trader-turned importer took the loan in the year of 2011-12 which remains still unpaid.
The company's establishments, including Hotel Hero City, Khulshi Bari and Mashrifa Food Products and the land on which the enterprises are situated, are mortgaged against the bank loan, but Pubali Bank officials say only 30% of the loan will be recovered by selling those properties.
In 2012, Asad Corporation, another company of Shah Alam, took a loan from NCC Bank to import wheat. Citing loss in the import, he has not yet repaid the loan. At present, the company owes Tk64.60 crore to Khatunganj branch of the bank.
Against the loan, the bank has mortgaged Shah Alam's three buildings including 11 katha land. The bank officials said the current market value of the property would be around Tk20-25 crore.
Shah Alam's company Alam Enterprise is Tk29 crore in debt with Bank Asia Khatunganj branch. According to the bank, Alam Enterprise has been doing business with Bank Asia since 2007. Recovery of the loans taken by the enterprise from the bank in 2012 got stuck. The company took the loans to import wheat and sugar.
Against the loan, a four-storied building with 0.09 acres of land is mortgaged to the bank. However, an auction of the property last month failed to find any potential buyer.
Shah Alam, the proprietor of Ayman Enterprise, got a loan from Premier Bank easily since he reportedly had good relations with the bank top-brass. But for the last ten years, he did not repay the installments of the loan taken in 2010.
At present, the company owes about Tk90 crore to Khatunganj branch of the bank.
Nurul Abshar, executive vice-president of Premier Bank and former manager of Khatunganj branch, claimed that Shah Alam secured the loan after managing senior officials of the bank at that time.
"I tried a lot to recover the money while serving at Khatunganj branch. But he does not have any intention to repay it. So, we were forced to lodge lawsuits against him. He fled abroad after being convicted in several cases filed by different banks," he added.
Shaon & Sons, another company of Shah Alam, started transactions with One Bank Khatunganj branch in 2005. Since then, the company took several loans for importing consumer items.
Against the loans worth Tk24.64 crore, the bank has 0.8 acres of land of the company mortgaged. The land was put up for auction, but the bank did not find any potential buyer. According to the bank's valuation in 2011, the land worth around Tk1 crore.
Shah Alam borrowed from Standard Bank Khatunganj branch for his company named Chattogram Agro Products Limited. At present, the businessman's loan at the bank stands at Tk9 crore.
Social Islami Bank
In 2012, Alam & Co borrowed from Social Islami Bank GEC branch for local letter of credit (LC) and consumer items. Like his other loans to different banks, Shah Alam did not repay the bank.
At present, the company is indebted to the bank with a Tk13 crore loan. The bank has plots mortgaged against the credit.
Shah Alam's Parvez Enterprise had been transacting with Eastern Bank Agrabad branch for quite a long time. In 2008, the enterprise borrowed a huge amount from the bank to import consumer goods. But, Shah Alam did not repay the loan yet.
Enterprises under Alam & Co include Hotel Hero City, Alam Enterprise, Alam & Co, H Ahmed & Sons, Shaon & Sons, Mashrifa Food Products, Mamiya Drinking Water and Mamiya Flower Mill. Of them, there is a good demand and sales of Mamiya Drinking Water in Chattogram.
Once, the four brothers used to run the family business together. Later, when Shah Alam failed on bank loans repayments, he got separated and started business in names of his offspring.
Other three brothers Didarul Alam, Mohammad Solaiman and Mohammad Elias are doing separate businesses in the port city.