HALLMARK INLAND BILL PURCHASE Now Sonali blames other banks, wants its money back

Sonali Bank yesterday pleaded with the Bangladesh Bank to help it recover Tk 895 crore that was debited from its account with the central bank to settle the acceptance bills relating to Hallmark Group loan scam.

The board and the management of the state-owned bank claimed that the companies, which got the fund from its current account, were a part of the scam.

The bank’s board of directors led by Chairman Md Ashraful Moqbul sat with the central bank to discuss the issue. BB Governor Fazle Kabir and three deputy governors were present at the meeting held at the BB headquarters.

Based on forged documents, Hallmark took around Tk 3,000 crore loans from Sonali’s Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch in 2012. Upon Sonali’s acceptance, 41 banks bought letters of credit of Hallmark and paid the money accordingly. When these banks started claiming their funds, Sonali refused to pay.

Later, many of these 41 banks requested the central bank to intervene. The BB paid them off by debiting the money from Sonali’s current account.

Sonali has requested the BB not to debit any more money from its current account.

Sonali Bank’s data showed that the central bank has so far debited Tk 895 crore from the state lender’s account to adjust Hallmark Group-related inland bills.

Still, the state-owned bank owes Tk 273 crore more to different banks against the accepted bills.

BB’s spokesperson and Sonali Bank’s chairman and managing director declined to comment on the matter.

Replying to Sonali’s claim, BB high-ups said the state-owned bank has to pay the money as it has accepted the bills in line with the banking norms.

The banks, which have received the money from Sonali, will have to refund the amount if the court finds these entities were involved in the Hallmark scam, the central bank has assured the state lender.