TIB asks why minister did not deposit costly watches with the state

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The explanation given by the road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader about his collection of costly wristwatches is inadequate and questionable, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) on Friday said.

TIB, a civil society organisation dedicated to fighting against corruption, called upon the minister to explain to the people why the collection of the expensive watches, claimed to be gifts, were not deposited to state’s ‘toshakhana’.

Toshakhana is a store-house where gifts received by the president, prime minister, ministers, and other government officials during their time in office are deposited.

At the same time, TIB has urged to the government to find out whether such ‘gifts’ are limited to watches and only the road transport and bridges minister had taken this or whether this is a prevalent practice, and to inform the findings to the people.

The civil society body on Friday sent a statement regarding this to the media.

Sweden-based online news portal Netra News on 26 December 2019 published a report - A wrist of luxury – on luxury watches Quader wears.

The investigative report published seven photos of Quader with seven different watches including their brand names and prices. All the photos were taken from his Facebook page. Access to the website from Bangladesh was blocked within 72 hours of publication of the report.

A newsman, quoting the Netra News report on Thursday, asked Obaidul Quader, also general secretary of ruling Bangladesh Awami League, “You’re a smart person and wear watches of different brands. Is the use of these costly watches in keeping with your annual income shown in documents submitted to the election commission?”

Stopping the reporter mid-sentence Quader said he did not buy any of the costly watches or clothes he uses. “For God’s sake, I haven’t bought a single one of those. I received these. Maybe many people love me.”

The ruling party senior leader also claimed he did not take any money from any contractor either.

In this context TIB executive director Iftekharuzzaman, in the media statement, said, “However he (the minister) got those gifts, according to Toshakhana laws of 1974, amended in June, 2012, why those were not deposited to the Toshakhana on time. Since he has decided not to deposit those, has he, following the related laws, deposited money equivalent to actual prices of those gifts to the state exchequer? People have right to know answers to these specific questions.”

Iftekharuzzaman further said the minister’s answers to questions of newsmen at the secretariat are not enough, rather gave rise to more questions. Did he, being one of the most influential cabinet members of the government and as general secretary of the ruling party, follow examples set by others or set examples for others?

The TIB media statement also said, according to media reports the minister said contractors wanted to give him an amount of money during the elections, which he did not take. Has he taken any steps to curb such immoral and corrupt practices from his position? Has anybody been blacklisted?

TIB wanted to know whether the list of those people would be published for the sake of the people.

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