Awami League leader Suranjit Sengupta on Saturday throw a challenge that he would be proved innocent repeatedly in the railwaygate scandal, no matter the investigation is conducted nationally or internationally.
About the scandal, the senior parliamentarian claimed he was innocent and never knew or saw Azam Khan, the whistleblower driver of his sacked assistant personal secretary Omar Faruq Talukder.
Appearing on a private television for the first time since the April 9 railwaygate scandal, Azam on Friday claimed the Tk 74 lakh stashed in his car was being taken to the house of then railway minister Suranjit.
Addressing a meeting at Dirai upazila in Suranjit, the minister without portfolio said as part of the national and international conspiracy a fictitious story was made against him six months ago which has been proved false in investigations.
“But the conspirators have been vocal again using Azam,” he said while speaking in the meeting organised by local AL.
Around 11:30pm on April 9, Azam drove Faruq’s microbus into Pilkhana, and blew the whistle that there was illegal money in the vehicle.
Azam had been missing since the scandal surfaced.
Railway money used in Soumen’s telecom business: Azam
Driver Azam Khan, the whistleblower of railwaygate scandal, claimed that railway’s money had been used in the telecom business of former railway minister Suranjit Sengupta’s son Soumen Sengupta.
“Discussion about the business of Suranjit’s son Soumen Sengupta took place in front of me,” Azam, driver of Siranjit’s sacked-assistant personal secretary (APS) Omar Faruq Talukder, said in the last part of a two-part interview with Rtv aired on Saturday.
Azam, who appeared in the interview for the first time since the April 9 railwaygate scam, had been missing since the scandal surfaced.
On April 9, Azam drove Faruq’s microbus into Pilkhana, and blew the whistle that there was 74 lakh cash stashed in the vehicle.
Apart from Faruq, railway’s general manager (east) Yusuf Ali Mridha and Dhaka division security commandant Enamul Huq were in the microbus. Faruq was sacked and Mridha and Enamul were suspended following the incident.
After the vehicle entered Pilkhana, the Border Guard Bangladesh detained the four for that night but freed them the next day when their identification was confirmed.
Not only as minister, Suranjit had been involved in several grafts involving recruitment and transfer when he was the head of Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Azam told the private television.
The driver claimed that Suranjit used to phone State Minister for Law Quamrul Islam and tell him, “I am sending my APS. There are some quotas.”
If Suranjit Sengupta had given five (names), the APS would add five more and get money, Azam claimed.
After the railwaygate scandal, the APS offered Azam ten to twenty lakh taka on condition of saving the then railway minister, the driver said.
“The APS told me that if you agree with us, you will get a good amount but I (Azam) told him that it was not possible for me.”
Earlier, the APS told Azam that from next time, they would collect money through a bank account of a Suranjit’s friend as it had become risky to carry the money in car.
“I had targeted to get them arrested with the money. As they decided not to carry money in my car anymore, it was the last chance for me. So, I drove the car into the Pilkhana on April 9,” he said.
Azam quoted the APS, “We both know where the money was going. I have taken all the responsibilities (for the money). Do not implicate any others. Do not implicate Suranjit Sengupta. Implicate me. You will say, the money is mine.”
Apprehending that he might be killed or abducted if he comes out of the hideout, Azam appealed to the prime minister and the home minister for securing his life.
“I feel bad. I want to see my father and mother,” he said.
Seeking Suranjit’s comment, the Rtv contacted him but Suranjit, the minister without portfolio, termed all the allegations baseless.
“What is the meaning to tell all this now? Want to drown the government? He has been called by the Anti-Corruption Commission several times. He did not turn up. Why did he not utter a single word in last six months?” Suranjit said.
Azam in the first interview with Rtv aired on Thursday night said the Tk 74 lakh stashed in his car was being taken to the then railway minister Suranjit’s house.
Earlier on April 15, Yusuf Ali Mridha in a written statement to the ACC said he along with Faruq and Enamul was going to Suranjit’s Jigatola residence that night.
And though a government investigation found irregularities in the recruitment in the railway’s east zone, a railway departmental report on May 13 gave a clean chit to Suranjit Sengupta, saying he had no involvement in the scandal.
According to railway sources, some 1,128 people were given jobs in the railway’s east zone in the last one year. Allegations are Yusuf and Faruq took Tk 3 to 5 lakh from each of the jobseekers.
The government probe committee also found that Mridha and four other railway officials “changed the exam papers of many disqualified jobseekers in exchange for money”.