Aug 302012

DHAKA, Aug 30: Sonali Bank Limited, the largest bank in Bangladesh, on Thursday suspended 17 of its officials for their alleged links to the biggest financial forgery of Tk 35 billion by textile company Hall-Mark Group and some other firms.

The suspended officials of the state owned bank include deputy general manager ANM Hedayet Ullah, assistant general manager Golam Nabi, Ashraf Ali Patwari and Wahid Uddin Ahmed of the bank’s general manager’s office. The bank also wrote to the finance ministry to take action against three of its top officials, a bank official said.

On August 26, Bangladesh Bank (BB), the central bank of Bangladesh, directed Sonali Bank to suspend 31 of its officials, including two deputy managing directors, on charges of their involvement in the scam by Thursday.

The BB also asked the bank to take steps against the officials under the criminal laws. The BB has also requested the government to reconstitute the Sonali’s board of directors. But finance minister AMA Muhith turned down the proposal saying that making such suggestions was not the duty of the central bank. He blasted the BB officials for failing to monitor things. Bangladesh Bank had asked the managing director of the bank for taking action against those officials so that they could not hinder the bank’s activities.

Kashem Humayun, a member of the board of directors of Sonali Bank, told reporters that the suspended officers also included six officers of the Rupashi Bangla branch of Sonali Bank from which Hallmark Group siphoned off the money.

They are senior officers Ujjal Kishore Dhar, Tushar Kanti Das, Jesmin Nahar and Mihir Chandra Majumdar and junior officers Wakil Uddin Ahmed and Saidur Rahman. Deputy managing director of the Sonali main branch, Sheikh Altaf Hossain along with assistant general manager Shafiz Uddin Ahmed, senior executive officer Moklesur Rahman, executive officers Sohrab Hossain and Ekramul Haq Mandal and inspector Kamrul Hossain Khan are also in the list. Abul Momen Patwari of vigilance and control department has also been suspended.

Sonali Bank earlier sent seven senior officials into retirement in connection with the scam. The bank has decided to request the ministry of finance to take legal action against them. The Bangladesh Bank on Sunday asked Sonali Bank to suspend 31 of its officials by August 30 for their involvement in the illegal lending of Tk 3,547 crore to Hallmark Group and its five other companies.

A BB investigation earlier found that Sonali Bank’s Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch had given Hallmark Group and five other companies Tk 3,547 crore in loan between 2010 and May this year on fake documents.

The businesses allegedly embezzled the whole amount that belonged to depositors in collusion with some bank officials. Of the Tk 3,547 crore, Hallmark Group alone took away Tk 2,686.14 crore, T and Brothers Tk 609.69 crore, Paragon Group Tk 146.60 crore, Nakshi Knit Tk 66.36 crore, DN Sports Tk 33.25 crore and Khanjahan Ali Tk 4.96 crore.

On March 28 this year, Hallmark opened local letters of credit worth Tk 500 crore in favour of Anwara Spinning Mills, Max Spinning Mills and Star Spinning Mills to buy yarn. The three companies are also clients of the bank’s same branch. Following Hallmark’s guarantee to repay the LCs, the bank purchased the acceptance bills and disbursed the money to the accounts of the three spinning mills.

A few days later, the three mills asked the bank branch to transfer the money to the account of Hallmark Group and the branch duly obliged. Later, Hallmark transferred the money to a current account of Century International, a concern of the group. The probe found that the three spinning mills are non-existent.

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