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Tarique Rahman: Portrait of a leader

06 Mar 2018

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While sentencing BNP Chairperson and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia to five years rigorous imprisonment in connection with embezzlement of foreign donations meant for orphans, the Special Court in Dhaka also sentenced her fugitive and convicted son Tarique Rahman to ten years imprisonment in absentia in the graft case.

Surprisingly, as Khaleda Zia landed in jail, Tarique Rahman has been named BNP’s Acting Chairman. In 2016 Tarique Rahman was convicted in absentia and sentenced to seven years in jail and fined Tk 20 crore by the High Court on charges of money laundering.

 

BNP has recently scrapped a section of its party constitution that debarred convicted and dishonest persons from being party leaders.

 

Tarique Rahman is being tried in absentia on several other charges with one being the August 21, 2004 grenade attack on an Awami League rally in Dhaka killing 23 persons. The prime target of the attack was Sheikh Hasina who was addressing the rally and she narrowly escaped the assault.
Tarique Rahman is being tried in absentia on several other charges with one being the August 21, 2004 grenade attack on an Awami League rally in Dhaka killing 23 persons. The prime target of the attack was Sheikh Hasina who was addressing the rally and she narrowly escaped the assault.

 

Sitting in London and afraid to return home for fear of being imprisoned for financial fraud, corruption, acts of terrorism and abuse of power, Tarique Rahman frequently hit newspaper headlines launching a malicious campaign against Bangladesh’s independence and freedom fighters as well as the country’s national leaders including its founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

 

There are a number of instances of Tarique’s involvement in money laundering, embezzlement, extortion and bribery. During Khaleda Zia’s rule (2001-06), Tarique was running a parallel government from Hawa Bhavan (an alternative power center) along with some of his trusted lieutenants and musclemen.

 

Taking advantage of his mother’s position Tarique became the most powerful and corrupt person in the country through sheer muscle power. Reports appeared that Tarique was profiting from corrupt surcharges on rice, sugar, compressed natural gas and other essential commodities. Reports also appeared about his investment in Malaysia, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. BNP leader and former State Home Minister Lutfozzaman Babar worked as a mediator between Tarique and people interested to bribe him to gain favor at the cost of state coffers.

 

Anti corruption drive launched by the Army-backed dispensation that took over power following completion of Khaleda Zia’s rule in 2006 led to disclosures of underhand dealings and coercive methods employed by Tarique to amass a large fortune. Dishonestly earned money enabled him to carve out a place among the ten richest persons of Bangladesh with wealth exceeding US $ 1 billion.

Tarique’s corrupt activities were not limited to extortion of local companies. ACC uncovered evidence in several bribery cases involving both foreign and local firms and individuals. According to a witness who funneled bribes from Tele Com giant Siemens to Tarique and his brother Arafat Rahman Koko (now dead), Tarique received two per cent bribe on all Siemens deals in Bangladesh. This case is being pursued by the US Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture and the FBI.

 

Anti-graft body Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) brought charges against Tarique and his close business partner Giasuddin Al Mamun in 2009. ACC Assistant Director Mohammad Ibrahim submitted a charge sheet in a court in Dhaka accusing the two of laundering Tk 20.41 crore between 2003-2007. Tarique had realized the money in foreign currencies from different organizations and companies. In exchange for the sums, he had promised to award them contracts using his clout as Prime Minister’s son. To conceal his identity while drawing the money, Tarique had used a supplementary debit card issued against his friend Mamun’s bank account with Citibank in Singapore.

 

Beside the amount shown as laundered, Tarique drew $54,982 (Tk 38.49 lakh) and Mamun $79,542 (Tk 55.68  lakh) from the same account on different dates during 2003-07. ACC came to know about Tarique’s debit card from his wealth statement submitted to ACC on June 7, 2007 in which Tarique mentioned that he was in possession of a debit card with Citibank in Singapore. Mamun did not submit any wealth statement; but in interrogation by the Joint Forces during the Caretaker government rule, Mamun confessed to having ill-gotten money in Citibank in Singapore and NatWest Bank in the UK. Following the confession, ACC found Euros equivalent to Tk 1.19 crore, US $ worth Tk 19.02 crore and Pounds worth Tk 19.51 crore in their Citibank account in Singapore.

 

Hosaf Group Chairman Moazzem Hossen deposited $11.67 lakh (Tk 8.2 crore) as ‘power plant consultancy fee’ in their Citibank Singapore account on January 16, 2003. On August 1, 2003, Nirman Construction Chairman Khadiza Islam sent $7.50 lakh (Tk 5.25 crore) from OCC Bank in Singapore as the firm was trying to get the work of building an 80 MW power plant in Tongi. A Mayer Cie-Re paid $30,000 (Tk 21 lakh) into the Citibank account on September 26 the same year. Besides, $4.11 lakh (Tk 2.88 crore) was put into the same Citibank account from unnamed sources.

 

For the first time in Bangladesh’s history a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the US gave testimony and produced evidence against Tarique during trial of the money laundering case in Dhaka in 2011.

 

ACC also found out that Tarique accepted US $ 3.1 million (Tk 219 million) bribe to thwart the prosecution of a murder case against Sanvir Sobhan, son of Bashundhara Group Chairman. Sanvir was an accused in the killing of Humayun Kabir, a Basundhara Group Director. Bashundhara Group is one of the largest industrial conglomerates of the country.

 

According to ACC, Tarique threatened Al Amin Construction owner Amin Ahmed with closure of the company unless he received a payment of US$ 150,000. Other business leaders including Mohammad Aftab Uddin Khan of Reza Construction Ltd, Mir Zahir Hossain of Mir Akhter Hossain Ltd and Harun Ferdousi have each filed accusations detailing a systematic pattern of extortions on a multi- million dollar scale.

 

Tarique’s corrupt activities were not limited to extortion of local companies. ACC uncovered evidence in several bribery cases involving both foreign and local firms and individuals. According to a witness who funneled bribes from Tele Com giant Siemens to Tarique and his brother Arafat Rahman Koko (now dead), Tarique received two per cent bribe on all Siemens deals in Bangladesh. This case is being pursued by the US Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture and the FBI.

 

ACC found out that the Harbin Company, a Chinese construction company, paid US $ 750,000 to Tarique to open a plant. One of Tarique’s trusted agents received the payment and deposited it in the Citibank account in Singapore. ACC revealed that Monem Construction paid a bribe worth US $ 450,000 to Tarique to secure contracts.

 

Tarique’s complicity in embezzlement of Tk 2.10 crore, in collusion with his mother Khaleda Zia, by forming the fake Zia Orphanage Trust has recently come to the fore. On June 9, 1991 a grant of US$1,255,000, then equivalent to about Tk 4.45 crore, was transferred from the United Saudi Commercial Bank to Prime Minister’s Orphanage Fund – a fund that was created by Khaleda Zia and Tarique shortly before transfer of the fund – as part of the embezzlement scheme.

 

ACC found out that Tarique bought a property in 2006 in Dubai for $ 60 million. The recent media reports on Saudi Arabian investigation into allegations of money laundering, corruption and bribery by BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and Tarique have raised questions of integrity and legality in the political, diplomatic and civil society circles. According to the reports Khaleda Zia and her two sons had an investment of $ 12 billion in malls and other infrastructural projects in Saudi Arabia with the money amassed through bribery and extortion, now under the scanner of the Saudi authorities.

 

 Investigations into major money laundering cases, bribery, extortion and acts of terrorism are unfolding Tarique’s complicity. His ‘ailments’ may be treated in Bangladesh and do not warrant an indefinite stay in London. However, he has been camping in London since September 2008 only to escape arrest and remain a fugitive.




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