The controversial Hall-Mark Group now claims an abnormally inflated price for the 47 acres of land it has mortgaged to Sonali Bank for the Tk 2,686-crore loan it has taken using forged papers.
Through public advertisements over the last few days, the company has been claiming the market price of the land is Tk 2,000 crore, which is nearly four times the official estimate.
Sonali Bank in its primary evaluation put the price at Tk 500-600 crore, a bank official told The Daily Star.
According to another estimate by National Bank, the land is worth Tk 425 crore. (National Bank is not a party to the loan scam. The bank has done a mortgage valuation for a piece of land owned by one of its clients on the same site. The estimate is cited for the readers to see the contrast between the market price and Hall-Mark’s claim.)
Hall-Mark’s mortgaged land is at Janata Housing at Hemayetpur and Tentuljhora of Savar, said group General Manager Tushar Ahmed.
The housing project was taken up in 1978, but most of the area remains vacant in the absence of basic civic amenities and utility services.
In the city master plan the entire site is shown as wetland and rural homestead. But violating the environment law, Hall-Mark has initiated an industrial park there allegedly occupying many times more land than it owns.
Complaints of illegal occupation and vandalism against Hall-Mark piled up in the local police station, but little action followed.
Locals accuse the police and the local administration of being silent about such “land grabbing” by Hall-Mark Managing Director Tanvir Mahmud.
Some say police have some kind of “sympathy” for Tanvir.
In July last year, a group of plot owners at Janata Housing lodged a compliant with Home Minister Shahara Khatun, alleging that Tanvir and his men had forcibly occupied their land to set up the industrial park.
Ordered by the minister to recover the “illegally occupied” land, the additional superintendent of police in Dhaka in his investigation found that Tanvir grabbed at least 19 plots there.
The probe report said the Hall-Mark MD also occupied and earth-filled spaces meant for lake, market and school under the housing project. Tanvir also erected boundary walls in efforts to occupy another 200 plots in G and E blocks.
The report, submitted to the superintendent of police (SP) of Dhaka, recommended legal action against Tanvir.
Asked, SP Mizanur Rahman told this correspondent last week that Tanvir had obtained bail in all the cases in connection with intimidation and land-grabbing. The SP then hurriedly hung up the phone, saying he was busy.
In April this year, Bangladesh Water Development Board in a letter said Hall-Mark erected half a kilometre long wall on the embankment of the river Dhaleshwari. On this occupied land to the south of Singair Bridge, the company has set up a factory, a warehouse and some security posts.
The Savar police took no action although the Water Development Board filed a general diary and wrote to the officer-in-charge of the station for reclaiming the land.
Retired wing commander Hasan Masud owns a five-katha plot at Janata Housing. He said Tanvir’s men knocked down the makeshift structure and the boundary wall on his plot twice and hung Hall-Mark’s signboards there.
He said at least 50 of the affected plot owners had filed general diaries with the Savar police over the last one year but the law enforcers had done nothing.
Late last year, a Dhaka court issued an arrest warrant for Tanvir, after Muksudur Rahman, a relative of a plot owner, filed a land-grabbing case.
Contacted, Savar Police Station Officer-in-charge Md Asaduzzaman said, “We have not taken any action in connection with the general diaries as the complainants did not maintain contact with us.”
He admitted that there were about 30 GDs filed against Tanvir and his men over land grabbing.
Kamrunnesa Mohiuddin, whose makeshift structures were allegedly vandalised by Tanvir’s men, sought help from the Dhaka Deputy Commissioner, Mohibul Haque, in vain.
Mohibul told The Daily Star that the district administration had no authority to recover private land from illegal occupation.
However, a retired additional secretary wishing anonymity said the DC as a district magistrate could issue an order to calm the feuding parties to avert any untoward situation.
Hall-Mark General Manager Tushar Ahmed refuted all the allegations against the company and his MD. He said his company bought more than 100 acres of land at Janata Housing in the last six years.
The developer of Janata sold out the project’s community space to Hall-Mark, he added.
But Rafiqul Hasan Rizwan, site manager of Janata Housing, said his company did not sell any land to Hall-Mark.
Hitherto little known Hall-Mark has come to the limelight after the discovery that the company has swindled Tk 2,686 crore out of Sonali Bank’s Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch over the last two years.
Separate investigations of the Bangladesh Bank and Sonali Bank concluded that Hall-Mark had been given the sum mainly in loans against fake documents.