Five-star Sheraton Hotel built on government land

The city corporation owns the land. Borak is occupying it by constructing a 28-storey building despite the permission for 14 storeys

Sheraton Hotel in Banani, Dhaka
Tanvir Ahmed

Borak Real Estate, a private limited company, has built a 28-storey five-star hotel on the 60 katha plot of land owned by the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) in Banani, the upscale neighbourhood of the capital.

DNCC authorities are saying the contract with Borak was for construction of a 14-storey building. DNCC would get 30 per cent of it while the rest would be owned by Borak. According to estimates of DNCC. their part is valued around TK 5,500 million (Tk 550 crore). But the authorities are yet to receive their share. Borak, on the other hand, has constructed a 28-storey building instead of a 14-storey one and controls the entire structure.

Erstwhile undivided Dhaka City Corporation signed the contract with Borak when Sadek Hossain Khoka was the mayor. According to the contract, ‘Banani Super Market cum housing complex’ would be constructed on the land on western side of the Banani kitchen market and north of Banani Central Mosque. The City Corporation would get 30 per cent of the building while the construction firm would get 70 per cent. There was widespread criticism about this unequal contract and that matter was even discussed in the parliament committee.

After the City Corporation was divided, this piece of land in Banani belonged to Dhaka North City Corporation. DNCC mayor Atiqul Islam told Prothom Alo, it is evident that an unequal contract about constructing a building over the land in an area like Banani was signed. Certain quarters with vested interests had approved this unequal contract.  

According to DNCC, the corporation owns 60 kathas of land along Kemal Ataturk Avenue. The corporation already had a three-storey market on 44 kathas of land. In front of the market beside the main road, 16 kathas were vacant. Tenders were announced to construct a building on the 44 katha plot. The remaining 16 kathas would remain vacant. But the contract was carried out including the 16 katha plot to construct a 14-storey building on 60 kathas of land for the benefit of the construction company.

But construction firm Borak constructed a 28-storey building on the 16-katha empty plot. DNCC issued a letter to Borak, asking them not to construct a 28-storey building in violation of the contract. Related sources said the corporation dispensed of their responsibility by simply issuing the letter. They did not take any initiative to stop the construction work.

28-storey building without permission

The engineering department of the DNCC said the first contract was signed in May 2006. The construction of a 13-storey building was permitted in July 2007. According to the contract the corporation was supposed to receive its share by January 2010. 

Eight months after the contract ,Borak applied for three basements with a 30-storey foundation and 14-storey building. According to the application the city corporation made an amendment to the contract. After that an amended contract was signed for constructing a 14-floor building instead of a 13-floor one. After 27 days Borak once again applied for the permission of constructing 16 more floors over a 14-storey building. They also continued their construction work without waiting for the permission.

According to an inquiry report of the DNCC, a field visit on behalf of DNCC in 2011 found construction was ongoing above 14 floors. Despite being prohibited from breaching the contract Borak did not pay heed. They once again applied for a permission to construct a 30-storied building. Later on, the City Corporation sent a letter to the local government ministry seeking the opinion of the latter. By then City Corporation was divided in two by 2012 and the DNCC got the ownership of the building.

According to the inquiry report, the local government department expressed its objection about constructing the 30-storey building after going through all the papers. The matter even went to the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs. The ministry ordered the matter to be settled by discussing with the construction firm. Later the erstwhile mayor Annisul Huq and panel mayor Osman Ghani formed a few committees but the dispute was not settled. By then the construction work of the 28-storey building commenced. Mayor Atiqul Islam also formed a committee regarding the matter. That committee has already submitted a report to the ministry.

Borak Real Estate managing director Nur Ali claimed to Prothom Alo, he has been working after obtaining the permission of a 30-storey building from the city corporation. Now the problem is with the share of ownership.

But Nur Ali’s claim was dismissed by the relevant officers of the DNCC. According to them, Borak started the construction of a 30-storey building by submitting just one application. Before the final permission 28 floors and three basements were constructed there. After that five-star Sheraton Hotel commenced. Although the owner of the land is DNCC the whole building is under control of businessman Nur Ali.

Nur Ali told the Prothom Alo, “DNCC has not yet received its own land. There are some malicious people in the corporation who are trying to fulfil someone’s agenda. The complexity occurred due to them.”

DNCC at the blessing of Borak

DNCC source informed, the situation is such now that corporation is largely dependent on Borak about how much of this billions of taka on their own land they will get.

To resolve this, DNCC formed a committee in January 2022. Borak submitted a new proposal to the committee where they said they would like to give 40 per cent ownership to DNCC in the unauthorised part of the building, from 15 to 28 floors. This proposal was granted by the highest forum board of DNCC.

Borak managing director Nur Ali told Prothom Alo, he agreed to give 40 per cent for the sake of both the parties.

Regarding the matter, DNCC mayor Atiqul Islam said, “Whatever amount may be gained through discussion is profitable for the corporation.” He said, “Discussions are underway to increase the share of the city corporation." They sent a proposal to ministry.

Complications about height

Noor Ali claimed that the building was constructed with the approval of all the agencies. But sources in the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism say that the approval of the relevant authorities has not been taken regarding the height of this building. The ministry had requested RAJUK in September last year to take necessary measures, including removal of the unauthorised building with extra height.

Sources of the ministry say that on September 18, another memo from the ministry also told the managing director of the construction company that there is no opportunity to construct a building with a height of more than 201 feet on that plot due to the airspace of the aircraft. So, the excess height must be removed quickly.

Chairman of Rajuk Anisur Rahman Mia told the Prothom Alo, "We are looking at what measures can be taken based on the letter from the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism."

Field visit

In a recent field visit it was seen, Sheraton Hotel is established on the unauthorised 28-storey building on the vacant 16-katha plot. There is a swimming pool on the top floor and a gymnasium below. There is a restaurant and a ballroom respectively on the 15th floor and 11th floor.

Of the remaining 44 kathas, where the City Corporation building was already present, that building has been extended to 14 floors. There are shops up to the second floor. On the third floor, it can be seen that ancillary work is left, including the installation of tiles. After staying there for a while, two security personnel came and asked this reporter to leave. Later, an employee in charge of the building's security said that the entire work of the building was not completed.

About this Nur Ali claimed, the shop owners who were already present, are not allowing them to work. As a result, the work is being processed slowly.

When asked why the city corporation is yet to get the ownership, Nur Ali said, “We are chasing the city corporation, they are not interested to take it. Other people are embezzling everything."

Role of City Corporation is questionable

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) executive director Iftekharuzzaman told the Prothom Alo, the officers who are allowing the firm to encroach the government land, should be prosecuted. Because, without their cooperation it was not possible by any means to construct a building there.

He said the roles of top officers in city corporations are also questionable because they did not take timely action. The BGMEA building was demolished in the face of public demand. This paradigm exists in the country. Another precedent should be set by taking action against this building as well.