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BASIC Bank Loan Scam: Transfer of Tk 20cr raises questions

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FT ONLINE

Around Tk 20 crore was transferred to bank accounts of two firms, owned by Sheikh Abdul Hye Bacchu’s younger brother, from several companies that got loans from BASIC Bank through scams when Bacchu was its chairman.

This came to light through the findings of an investigation conducted by Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU), the anti-money laundering unit of the central bank, in 2014. The BFIU sent its report to the Anti-Corruption Commission the same year.

The ACC is now interrogating Bacchu over BASIC Bank loan scams that rattled the country’s banking sector and turned the once-solvent state-run bank into a troubled lender.

Appearing before the ACC on Monday, Bacchu ruled out his involvement in the loan scams.

An inspection conducted by Bangladesh Bank in 2013 found irregularities in approving loans of around Tk 4,500 crore in four branches of BASIC Bank between December 2009 and November 2012.

The BFIU carried out the probe to trace how the money was transferred and who were the ultimate beneficiaries.

In its report, the BFIU says part of the loans, approved through irregularities during Bacchu’s stint as BASIC Bank chairman, was transferred to two bank accounts of two firms owned by his younger brother Sheikh Shariar Panna.

The Gulshan branch of the bank gave loans to BS Trading through irregularities on various occasions. The loans amounted to Tk 40 crore till 2014. The client is now a defaulter with the bank.

Some Tk 1.05 crore was transferred to a bank account of BM Computers and Tk 1.65 crore to an account of Crown Properties from BS Trading’s bank account.

Panna is the owner of both BM Computers and Crown Properties, which maintained their accounts with a multi-national bank.

Back in 2010, BASIC Bank approved a loan of Tk 5.60 crore to BS Trading before the firm even opened its account with the bank.

The loan amount was raised to Tk 33 crore in 2012. The branch concerned, however, didn’t show any reason for increasing the amount. It didn’t even verify the ownership of the property that was mortgaged against the loan.

Besides, no credit risk grading was done before approving the loan though it was mandatory. No documents of the mortgaged land were collected.

The BFIU investigation also found that Tk 1.50 crore was transferred to the bank account of Crown Properties from Angel Agro Feed which took a loan of Tk 31.54 crore as working capital from BASIC Bank for poultry and fish trading.

Angel Agro Feed had opened an account with the bank in May 17, 2012, just two days after the firm got trade licence. BS Trading was its introducer.

Besides, Time Trade Impex, another business firm, transferred Tk 1 crore to Crown Properties’ account after it got a loan of Tk 10.90 crore from BASIC Bank’s Gulshan branch.

Crown Properties also received in its bank account Tk 8 crore through pay orders from Delta Systems Ltd, which had been given a loan of Tk 122.73 crore by the bank’s Gulshan branch between 2012 and 2013 in breach of rules.

Moreover, Tk 8 crore was transferred to the account of Crown Properties in 2012 from a bank account of Life Style Fashion Maker which was given a loan of Tk 55.76 crore by the same branch in violation of the credit rules in 2011.

Crown Properties also received Tk 80 lakh in its bank account from an account of Dhrubo Traders, which was granted a loan of Tk 10.57 crore by BASIC Bank in 2012.

Despite repeated attempts, this newspaper could not reach Panna over his mobile phone yesterday.

In 2015, the ACC filed 56 cases over the embezzlement of Tk 2,036 crore from BASIC Bank. The probe into the misappropriation of the rest of the money is going on.

However, Bacchu was not made an accused in any of the cases.

On November 23 this year, the ACC summoned the former chairman and 10 former directors of the bank for interrogation.

While holding hearing on two loan scam cases earlier on August 18, a Supreme Court bench expressed displeasure at the ACC for not naming Bacchu and the bank’s ex-board members in the cases.

-SAM

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