BNP’s Senior Vice Chairman Tarique Rahman (Concluding part)

(Concluding part) | 05 Jun 2014


Describing former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s elder son and BNP’s Senior Vice Chairman Tarique Rahman as a symbol of “kleptocratic government and violent politics” in Bangladesh, the US embassy in Dhaka recommended blocking his entry into the United States. According to the US embassy Tarique Rahman was “guilty of egregious political corruption that has had a serious adverse effect on US national interests”, namely the stability of democratic institutions and US foreign assistance goals, a leaked US embassy cable (WikiLeaks) stated.
James F Moriarty, the then US Ambassador to Bangladesh, sent the confidential cable on November 3, 2008 to Washington and WikiLeaks published it on August 30, 2011.
Moriarty cited several examples of Tarique\'s major corruption as he described his worries in the cable about the possible impact of giving him access into the US. The decision in this regard, however, could not be known. Tarique has been staying in London since September 2008.
About six months after Moriarty\'s recommendation, Geeta Pasi, Chargé d\' Affaires of US embassy in Dhaka, sent another cable to Washington on Tarique Rahman. It said the State Department was considering a determination for visa revocation for him under the Presidential Proclamation.
“Tarique Rahman\'s corrupt practices have had deleterious effects on the US interests”, Moriarty wrote, adding “His antics have weakened public confidence in government and eroded the stability of democratic institutions.” 
“Tarique Rahman\'s well-established reputation for flouting the rule of law directly threatens US financial assistance goals directed toward reforming legal codes, strengthening good governance and halting judicial abuses,” added the cable.
“The bribery, embezzlement, and culture of corruption that the BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia\'s elder son has helped create and maintain in Bangladesh has directly and irreparably undermined US businesses, resulting in many lost opportunities”, Moriarty wrote. 
“His theft of millions of dollars in public money has undermined political stability in this moderate, Muslim-majority nation and subverted US attempts to foster a stable democratic government, a key objective in this strategically important region,” reads the cable.
Tarique\'s flagrant corruption has also seriously threatened specific US Mission goals, it said.
The US embassy has three key priorities for Bangladesh: democratization, development, and denial of space to terrorists. “Tarique\'s audaciously dishonest and corrupt activities jeopardize all three,” added the cable.
“His history of embezzlement, extortion, and interference in the judicial process undermines the rule of law and threatens to upend the US goal of a stable, democratic Bangladesh. The climate of corrupt business practices and bribes solicitation that Tarique fostered derailed US efforts to promote economic development by discouraging much needed foreign investment and complicating the international operations of US companies.”
Tarique\'s “flagrant disregard” for rule of law had provided potent ground for terrorists to gain a foothold in Bangladesh while also exacerbating poverty and weakening democratic institutions, the cable said.
“In short, much of what is wrong in Bangladesh can be blamed on Tarique and his cronies,” Moriarty wrote.
The former US Ambassador to Bangladesh recommended that Tarique could be subject to Presidential Proclamation 7750 that can block one\'s entry into the US for the aforementioned reasons.
Tarique Rahman, the elder son of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia who led the government in 1991-1996 and later 2001-2006, became all powerful and the most influential party leader during BNP\'s second term in office. 
During the period, he established an alternative centre of power at Hawa Bhaban, the then political office of the BNP Chairperson. It was open secret that Tarique and his cronies used to interfere in the government activities and control all major business deals. The cable termed Tarique Rahman “notorious for flagrantly and frequently demanding bribes in connection with government procurement actions and appointments to political office”.
 “We believe Tarique has several passports, including a new one in which the UK issued him a visa in September 2008. Another passport contains a five year multiple-entry B1/B2 visa (issued May 11, 2005). We suspect that passport is being held by the government.” 
Bangladesh\'s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) leveled serious charges against Tarique Rahman, the cable said, adding he reportedly had accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit wealth. There are multiple extortion cases pending against him, founded on the testimony of numerous prominent business owners who he victimized and exploited, the cable said.
“In one case, Tarique allegedly threatened Al Amin Construction owner Amin Ahmed with closure of the company unless he received a payment of 150,000 USD. Other local business leaders, including Mohammad Aftab Uddin Khan of Reza Construction Ltd, Mir Zahir Hossian of Mir Akhter Hossain Ltd, and Harun Ferdousi have each filed accusations detailing a systematic pattern of extortion on a multi-million dollar scale.”
The ACC had also filed charges of concealing ill-gotten wealth, and the National Board of Revenue had brought tax evasion charges against Tarique, the cable added. 
Tarique\'s corrupt activities were not limited to extortion of local companies, Moriarty wrote. Saying that the ACC had also uncovered evidence in several bribery cases involving both foreign and local firms and individuals, Moriarty listed the following examples: 
According to a witness who funneled bribes from Siemens to Tarique Rahman and his brother Arafat Rahman Koko, Tarique received a bribe of approximately two percent on all Siemens deals in Bangladesh (paid in US dollars). This case is currently being pursued by Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture and the FBI.
ACC sources report that the Harbin Company, a Chinese construction company, paid $750,000 to Tarique to open a plant. According to the ACC, one of Tarique\'s cronies received the bribe and transported it to Singapore for deposit with Citibank. 
An ACC investigator advised Embassy officials that Monem Construction paid a bribe worth $450,000 to Tarique to secure contracts. 
The ACC has evidence that Tarique accepted a $3.1 million bribe to thwart the prosecution of a murder case against Sanvir Sobhan, the son of Bashundhara Group chairman. Sanvir was accused in the killing of Humayun Kabir, a director of the business conglomerate. An investigation by the ACC confirmed Tarique had solicited the payment, promising to clear Sanvir of all charges. 
Moriarty also wrote that ‘beyond bribery and extortion, the ACC reported Tarique had also become involved in an elaborate and lucrative embezzlement scheme. With the help of several accomplices, he succeeded in looting $3 lakh from the Zia Orphanage Trust fund’. 
The former US Ambassador quoted an ACC source saying Tarique, who is a co-signatory to the Zia Orphanage Trust Fund account, used funds from the trust for a land purchase in his hometown. He also provided signed checks drawn from the orphanage fund accounts to BNP party members for their 2006 election campaigns.
Tarique Rahman was arrested in an anti-corruption crackdown by the Army-backed Caretaker government in March 2007, but he was subsequently released on bail on September 3 the next year. He flew to the UK on September 11, 2008 ostensively for medical treatment. 
Saying that Tarique\'s release occurred despite multiple pending cases against him on charges of corruption, extortion, bribery, embezzlement and tax evasion, Moriarty wrote: “With deep political ties that reach the highest court in the land, Tarique managed to manipulate the judicial process and overcome a concerted effort by the Caretaker Government to block his bail.”
As a condition for his release, Tarique had to quit the post of BNP\'s Senior Joint Secretary General and give an undertaking that he would refrain from all political activities in future. But surprisingly, Tarique Rahman has been made all-powerful Senior Vice Chairman in December 2009 with a clear mandate to lead BNP in absence of his mother.

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