Prime minister’s Health Adviser Modasser Ali has finally admitted to have made a “mistake” by visiting the scam-hit Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch of Sonali Bank where he was introduced to Hall-Mark Managing Director Tanvir Mahmud.
Protesting his innocence and terming his meeting with Tanvir “without any motive”, Modasser told a parliament body yesterday that he had visited the branch at the request of his relative and former branch manager, Hafizur Rahman.
“I think it was a mistake to visit the bank and to attend a function of Hall-Mark. Tanvir and some Sonali Bank officials used me to get the loan by using fake documents,” the adviser was quoted as saying by Tazul Islam, head of a parliamentary sub-committee that is probing the loan scam.
The House body on the finance ministry interrogated Modasser for about two hours at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban about his alleged involvement in the Tk 3,547 crore swindled out of the bank by Hall-Mark and five other companies over the last two years.
Allegations are rife that the health adviser influenced the bank officials into sanctioning the Tk 2,686-crore loan to Hall-Mark alone. The adviser has all along dismissed the allegations.
After the interrogation, journalists repeatedly asked him to comment on the interrogation and his reported role in the scam, but he remained tight-lipped.
But Tazul Islam said the committee had asked Modasser about his involvement and influence in the scam or Bangladesh Bank’s audit.
“The adviser claimed that he had gone to the bank in good faith and there had been no motive behind his visit,” Tazul told The Daily Star.
Modasser also admitted to have been present in the branch when an audit was underway to unearth the scam, he added.
On his joining a Hall-Mark function, Modasser told the parliamentary body: “I went there at the request of my relative and Tanvir. And I did so as they gave me an impression that the company [Hall-Mark] had provided jobs to many hundreds of people.”
Earlier on September 20, the Anti-Corruption Commission interrogated Modasser in connection with the scam, the biggest ever in the country’s banking history. But both Modasser and the ACC officials who interrogated him declined to comment on it.
But on August 29, ACC officials told The Daily Star they had information that the adviser had indeed tried to prevent the Bangladesh Bank team from auditing the Ruposhi Bangla branch a few months ago.
A BB official on condition of anonymity echoed the ACC officials’ comment.
On this, the adviser said he had gone to the bank before the audit team arrived. As he was waiting to have lunch there at the request of some bank officials, he came to know about the BB team’s visit.
He added that a member of the audit team then talked to him about the approval and disbursement of the loan when he gave him a visiting card for the latter to contact him should there be a need.
The parliamentary sub-committee is scheduled to talk to the Bangladesh Bank governor and banking division officials concerned today. The committee will soon submit its report to the finance ministry.