Road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader on Thursday claimed he has received all the costly wristwatches and clothes he wears as gifts from the party activists.
Quader, also general secretary of ruling Bangladesh Awami League, further said he neither bought any of the costly attire and watches nor took money from any of the contractors.
The minister was talking to media at his secretariat office on current events on Thursday.
Earlier on 26 December 2019, Sweden-based online newsportal Netra News published a report - A wrist of luxury – on luxury wristwatches Quader wears.
The investigative report published seven photos of Quader with seven different luxury wristwatches including their brand names and prices. Access to the website from Bangladesh was blocked within 72 hours of publication of the report. All the photos were taken from his facebook page.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticised the action on 8 January. “Bangladesh authorities are blocking access to online news sites in violation of the right to free speech and access to information.”
The international rights body also said, “On 29 December 2019, access to the Sweden-based investigative journalism website Netra News was blocked within Bangladesh after it published a report alleging corruption by Obaidul Quader, an influential party leader and a minister in the Awami League government.”
A newsman on Thursday asked Obaidul Quader, “You’re a smart person and wear watches of different brands.” Quoting from the report of the Sweden-based Netra News the newsman asked Quader, is use of those highly costly wristwatches in keeping with the annual income shown in documents submitted to the election commission.
Stopping the newsman mid-sentence Quader said, “I haven’t bought any of the watches I use. For God’s sake, I haven’t bought a single one of those. I received these. Maybe many people love me.”
Obaidul Quader also said many activists live abroad. They bring these gifts on their return home. A man brought me three waistcoats yesterday (Wednesday).
“They give me gifts. What can I say?” the minister said.
AL general secretary also said he could swear he had not taken anything from any contractor. “Contractors wanted to pay me an amount, but I declined the offer outright. The prime minister herself has given me the money for my election-related expenses.”
The minister, however, has not said anything about blocking the news site, Netra News, within Bangladesh.