Sue corrupts, government orders Sonali Bank

The finance ministry yesterday asked the Sonali Bank to file criminal cases against the officials of the bank and Hall-Mark Group involved in the recent loan scam.

The bank and financial institutions division of the ministry in a letter directed the bank’s management to take “departmental and legal action” against the top suspects in the swindle, including the bank’s former managing director Humayun Kabir.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry has demanded the immediate arrest of Hall-Mark Managing Director Tanvir Mahmud and the Sonali Bank officials involved in the fraud.

Otherwise they can flee the country anytime, FBCCI President AK Azad told a press conference in the capital yesterday.

ফৌজদারি মামলার নির্দেশ

State-owned Sonali Bank’s Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch lent Tk 3,606 crore to Hall-Mark Group, T and Brothers, Paragon Group, Nakshi Knit, DN Sports and Khanjahan Ali in violation of banking rules. Of the amount, Hall-Mark alone swindled Tk 2,686 crore.

Separate investigations of the Bangladesh Bank and Sonali Bank concluded that Hall-Mark and the five other companies had been given the sum mainly in loans against fake documents.

Talking to The Daily Star, finance ministry officials said they had sent the directives to Sonali Bank in line with the central bank’s recommendation.

Based on its findings, the BB had earlier instructed the scam-hit bank to take action against 32 officials, including a former managing director and two deputy managing directors.

The Sonali Bank so far suspended 17 officials of various ranks over the scam. Two other officials were made officers on special duty.

Contacted, a Sonali Bank official said the authorities had already identified those involved in the irregularities. Action will be taken against them on the arrival of the bank MD, Pradip Kumar Dutta, form the UK, where he is attending a meeting of the bank’s branch there.

He is due to return tomorrow.

On Sunday, Finance Minister AMA Muhith told reporters that many outside the Sonali Bank were also partners in the swindle, and action would follow against them soon.

The minister did not give any names but said steps were already taken to prevent them from fleeing the country.

The government has imposed a ban on foreign travel for former managing director Humayun Kabir and another former general manager of the bank and Hall-Mark Managing Director Tanvir Mahmud and his wife and group Chairperson Jasmine Islam.

FBCCI CALLS FOR ACTION
At the press conference at the FBCCI office, the federation president said the government should confiscate the assets of the fraudsters as a way of recovering the money.

Saying that the FBCCI in its preliminary investigation did not find the board’s involvement in the scam, Azad said some officials in the bank’s head office had granted the loan without notifying the board.

“Suspension of these corrupt officials is not enough,” he noted.

Such crimes would be encouraged if they went unpunished, he said, adding: “People will lose their trust in the banking system then.”

As many as 27 public, private and foreign banks will be directly affected by the swindle. Inland Bill Purchase (IBP) in the banking sector has remained stalled following the scam.

Besides, banks were now not showing interest in negotiating IBP with exporters and thus the flow of loans in the industrial sector was declining, Azad said.

The FBCCI president also demanded that all private and state-owned banks be brought under the central bank’s control.

At present, banks are controlled by the bank and financial institutions division of the finance ministry.

Though state-owned, Sonali, Janata and Agrani banks are now public limited companies and government interference in these banks should stop, Azad noted.

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