Arrested and sacked Jubo League leader Ismail Hossain Chowdhury alias Samrat has joined the ‘Malaysia My Second Home’ (MM2H) programmme, said multiple sources at the Anti-Corruption Commission.
The anti-corruption watchdog also unearthed information of his luxurious flat in Malaysia and banking transactions there.
A case may be filed against Samrat for amassing wealth illegally and laundering money, according to the ACC.
As per the official website of the programme, MM2H is promoted by the Malaysian government to allow foreigners to stay in the country as long as they want on a multiple-entry social visit pass.
Till December last year, a total of 4,135 Bangladeshis out of 42, 271 joined the programme.
The sources said the ACC has found Samrat’s luxurious flat in Ampang Teyarakunde area of Malaysia. It has detected Samrat’s transactions with several banks in Malaysia.
The ACC found evidence of Samrat’s costly flat and banking transactions in Malaysia, examining information from the police’s immigration department, Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) at Bangladesh Bank, the passport and the visa office, the second-home agents, the Malaysian high commission, his visa agent, the copy of his passport, the copy of second-home approval and his bank transactions.
Bangladesh ranks the third while China tops the list, followed by Japan, in participating the Malaysia’s MM2H programme.
Experts said those who joined the MM2H programme, siphoned off money from the country as there is no legal window to transfer money to Malaysia.
According to the MM2H website, Bangladeshis started participating in the scheme in 2003. In that year, 32 Bangladeshis enrolled in the programme. The number rose to 204 in 2004. The highest number of the Bangladeshis took part in the programme in 2005. A total of 852 Bangladeshis joined MM2H that year.
During the caretaker government tenure, the average was below 100 a year. Later, the number started rising in 2016 with 283. In 2017, it climbed to 451. The number was 191 in 2018.
According to the website of the programme, an applicant has to show proof of liquid assets worth Tk 10 million (RM 500,000) and offshore income of Tk 200,000 (RM 10,000) per month to join the programme.
Any citizen irrespective of nationality can apply for the programme.
Additionally, an applicant has to open a fixed deposit account of RM 500,000. But, one can withdraw half of the deposited money and the applicant must maintain a minimum balance of RM 150,000 from second year onwards and throughout stay in Malaysia under this programme.
ACC started investigating the matter following a complaint filed over laundering money to buy a second home in Malaysia back in 2015.
At the primary stage, ACC dug out a few names. Later, in the middle of 2017, a list of 10, 917 was prepared with the help of police’s special branch (SB) and BFIU.
According to the SB’s report submitted to the ACC, a total of 10,904 people travelled to Malaysia at different times and their movement was suspicious.
Finally, a team led by Zulfikar Ali, now ACC’s director, identified 23 people out of 10,917 names.
The anti-corruption body followed up and sought legal assistance from Malaysian authorities over the matter. But, the authorities did not give any satisfactory answers.
Asked about the matter, ACC secretary Delwar Bakt said the ACC is investigating those who are accused of amassing illegal money through unlawful casino business and laundering money.
The authorities have already formed a team led by ACC’s director Syed Iqbal Hossain to probe into the matter. The team is now working on it.
The ACC secretary also said the team has already prepared a list of 43 people and Samrat is on the list.
ACC chairman Iqbal Mahmood had a meeting with the chief of the elite force Rapid Action Battalion’s director general Benazir Ahmed.
BFIU’s chief Abu Hena Md Razi also met the ACC chief over the matter.
It has been learnt that various intelligence info were shared during the meetings.
Since the start of the raids against the casino business, Ismail Hossain Chowdhury alias Samrat went into hiding before his arrest on 6 October from Comilla.
As per the Global Financial Integration’s latest report, 730 billion was smuggled out of Bangladesh in 2014. Two Padma bridges could be made with that amount.
At the same time, the business transactions of Bangladesh with other nations were $70 billion. The smuggled money is 10 per cent of the total businesses of Bangladesh.
* This report, originally published in Prothom Alo online edition, has been rewritten in English by Toriqul Islam.