BASIC Bank scam: Directors hold Sheikh Abdul Hye liable

Sheikh Abdul Hye Bachchu.
Cartoon: Shishir Bhattacharjee

BASIC Bank directors have told the Anti-Corruption Commission that loan proposals or approvals were hardly discussed in the board meetings and working papers were sent to the directors on the previous night of the meeting.

Besides, documents concerning loan approvals were not given to the directors.

The directors said BASIC Bank former chairman Sheikh Abdul Hye Bacchu and managing director Kazi Fakhrul Islam would approve loans for companies which exist only in name keeping them (directors) in the dark year after year.

Around Tk 22 billion had been embezzled through fraud.

However, bank and company law experts have raised questions over the crediblity of such statements by former directors of the bank.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Supreme Court lawyer Ahsanul Karim said, "As per the company law, working papers are sent to the directors seven days ahead of board meeting of a bank.

Decisions of loan proposal or approval have been taken by the board of directors. It is considered that loans have been approved unanimously in the meeting of board of directors if any of the directors doesn't have any objection over the loan proposals."

Lawyers Ahsanul Karim also said, "As per law, there is no obligation for directors to sign the resolution. BASIC Bank directors cannot say they don't know anything about the loan scam or they were kept in the dark. The chairman and the MD have done everything. In fact, the directors in no way can avoid the liabilities of loan scam of the BASIC Bank."

In September 2015, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed 59 cases on charges of embezzling and laundering Tk 22.65 billion from BASIC Bank.

Sheikh Abdul Hye was not made accused in these cases. However, there were allegations that Sheikh Abdul Hye was the mastermind behind turning the state-owned reputed bank into a bank of loan scams.

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Following an intensive investigation for seven years, the ACC submitted a charge sheet to the court in 59 cases. The name of Sheikh Abdul Hye has been mentioned in 58 cases. There are names of 46 bank officials and 101 clients in the list of accused in the charge sheet. The ACC has not made accused anyone of the board of directors.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan said, those whose involvement has been found have been included in the list of accused and the charge sheet has been submitted to the court.

Analyzing the charge sheet, if the court deems that some witnesses are involved in the incident, the court can make a person accused from the witnesses, he said adding the court can order further investigation of the case.

'Making excuses to avoid liabilities'

Analysing the information of charge sheet of five cases out of 59 in connection with BASIC Bank loan scam, it has been found that six directors of the governing body have been made witnesses in the cases. All of them claimed they didn't know about the loan forgery. Analysing the depositions of these directors in the court, it was found that most of the directors have given the same statements.

Commerce secretary of the time, Shuvashis Basu, was in charge of BASIC Bank from 2010 to 2014.

According to ACC documents submitted to the court, during the interrogation, Shuvashis said, "For additional duties as a government official, it was not possible for me to look after everything of the bank. I think the board has responsibilities regarding policies of the bank. But the resolutions of meeting were not disclosed. The working paper was given on the previous night of board meeting. I don't know how the loans have been approved despite negative comments by the credit committee of the bank."

About his statement to the ACC, speaking to Prothom Alo, Shuvasish Basu said, "I didn't have any information of loan scams. The Chairman and MD know about it. They have signed he papers. Why is it my liability if I didn't sign anything and if I don't know to whom the loans have been given?

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Professor at the accounting and information system department of Kushtia Islamic University, Kazi Akhtar Hossain discharged duties as director at the BASIC Bank.

During the interrogation at the ACC, he said, "Working papers were given on the previous day or in the morning of board meeting. It was not possible to read all issues of board meeting. It was not possible for me to know which loan proposal was approved as the copy of resolution was not given."

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About the matter Kazi Akhtar Hossain said, "The entire board is liable if there are liabilities in connection with loan forgery of BASIC Bank. Such a forgery took place, we couldn't check that at the time. We didn't know the incidents."

Jubo League former presidium member Anwarul Islam was another director of BASIC Bank. During the interrogation with the ACC, he said, "BASIC Bank board members have no signatures in the resolution. Even the resolutions were not placed at the meeting. When talking about the resolution, the bank MD said resolution will be given to the next meeting. However, I have not got any copy of resolution."

Anwarul Islam said, "I didn't know about the incidents of forgery. Why is it my liability if I have no scope to know anything? The chairman and MD of the bank knew everything. The issues of loans providing to the companies in name were not discussed in the board."

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Association of Bankers Bangladesh (ABB) former chairman Anis A Khan said the statements of BASIC Bank directors are an 'excuse' to avoid liabilities.

He said, "Loans are approved in the board meeting. The directors have no scope to say they didn't know any information of loan approvals. The audit of bank is carried out every year.The information of bad loan is mentioned there. It is not fair to say that they didn't know anything after carrying out duties as director year after year. The directors have shown an excuse that they didn't know just to avoid the liabilties despite their acknowlegement of loan forgery."

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print print and online editions, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.