BASIC Bank Scam Probe: HC raps ACC Says long delay indicates connivance of commission officials with the accused

The High Court yesterday expressed utmost dissatisfaction and disappointment with the Anti-Corruption Commission for the long delay in completing investigations in the cases over BASIC Bank loan scams.

“It seems from your [ACC officials] indifference and long delay in completing probes that you have connivance with the accused. If they [the accused] remain in jail for a long period of time, they get a strong ground for getting bail.

“We have to grant the accused bail due to the long delay in completing probe,” said Justice M Enayetur Rahim, the presiding judge of the HC bench now dealing with a number of bail petitions in the loan scam cases.

“We have given so many directives and made observations on this issue. But those have not been implemented properly,” the judge told the ACC lawyers.

“We have to cover our faces with black cloth in shame … The commission could not submit charge sheet to the trial court in any of the 56 cases filed two and a half years back over the BASIC Bank loan scams.”

The HC bench of Justice Enayetur and Justice Shahidul Karim was hearing several petitions filed by Fazlus Sobhan, ex-deputy managing director of BASIC Bank, and its ex-deputy general manager Shipar Ahmed, seeking bail in loan scam cases.

The court fixed today for passing order on six bail petitions filed by Sobhan and one by Shipar.

Justice Enayetur said it is evident from case documents that the BASIC Bank’s credit committee had given negative opinions to the bank’s board of directors about granting loans to some applicants. But the board approved the loans ignoring the committee’s recommendations.

The board should have sent back the loan applications. Instead, it approved the loans immediately after some loan seekers submitted applications, he said.

“It has been found that a single person has taken loans in the names of different institutions … State money has been plundered this way. If the state agencies don’t act on this, we have nothing to say,” said Justice Enayetur.

He also mentioned that the ACC chairman reportedly said the commission has been trying to trace the embezzled money.

“If the commission is still trying to trace the [embezzled] money, the probe will not end till the doomsday,” Justice Enayetur said, adding that the commission is applying “pick and choose” policy in arresting people in the corruption cases.

The judge further said some high-profile graft suspects are seen in the television talk-shows and state programmes, but no action is taken against them.

Justice Shahidul said the commission’s intention becomes clear from its delay in investigation in the corruption cases.

Eight IOs and their two team leaders appeared before the HC bench yesterday in line with its May 23 summons.

The bench heard the statement of Syed Iqbal Hossain, one of the two team leaders, about the delay in completing investigations.

Iqbal told the court that the IOs could not complete the probes as they were transferred at different times.

The investigations will be completed within a very short time, added the ACC official.

ACC lawyers Khurshid Alam Khan and Syed Mamun Mahbub told the HC that the commission has been working sincerely and neutrally to combat corruption.

Barrister Rokanuddin Mahmud appeared for Sobhan, who has been accused in 48 cases.

The lawyer prayed to the court for Sobhan’s bail, saying his client had advised the BASIC Bank board not to approve the loans.

On November 8 last year, the same HC bench severely rebuked the ACC for foot-dragging and showing weaknesses in investigating the cases over the BASIC Bank loan scams.

The commission lacks neutrality, transparency and competence in dealing with the cases, the bench had said.

Meanwhile, the ACC yesterday quizzed former BASIC Bank chairman Sheikh Abdul Hye Bacchu over Tk 4,500-crore loan scams.

ACC Deputy Director Shamsul Alam grilled Bacchu for around three hours from 10:00am.

Bacchu got out of the interrogation cell around 1:00pm and left without talking to reporters.

He was first quizzed on December 4 last year and was grilled for the fourth time on March 8.

According to a Bangladesh Bank enquiry, around Tk 4,500 crore was siphoned out of BASIC Bank between 2009 and 2013 when Bacchu chaired the board of the bank.

Kazi Faqurul Islam, the then managing director of the bank, was removed on May 25, 2014 over his alleged involvement in the financial scams.

Bacchu resigned as the chairman on July 5 that year amid growing allegations that he misappropriated funds by approving shady loans of several thousand crores of taka.

On July 14, 2014, the BB gave the ACC a report on the BASIC Bank scam, detailing how money was embezzled from that bank through fake companies and dubious accounts.

Finance Minister AMA Muhith on several occasions expressed anger in parliament as he could not take steps against all involved in the scams in BASIC Bank and Sonali Bank.

On February 24, 2016, he told the House that 27 bank officials, 56 organisations and eight surveyor firms were involved in the BASIC Bank loan scams.

He also said external audit firms appointed by the BB and BASIC Bank detected involvement of Bacchu and the then board members in granting irregular loans.

The BB found that Bacchu illegally influenced all the activities of the bank, leaving it in a grave state.

On July 26 last year, the HC directed the ACC to probe the alleged involvement of Bacchu and board members of the bank in the scams.