An unusual change was brought to the ownership of four non-bank financial institutions before and after the national election of 2014.
The institutions are now in financial dire straits. One is on the verge of closure and the others are unable to return their clients’ money.
A certain man cunningly took control of these institutions. He launched many companies, some under fake names, bought huge amount of shares from the stock market and transferred money from the institutions he had grabbed in the guise of loans.
The man has even launched companies abroad.
This is Prasanta Kumar Halder. While taking control of the institutions, he had initially been managing director (MD) of Reliance Finance and later of NRB Global Bank.
A number of Bangladesh Bank officials reportedly assisted him.
Everything happened in the knowledge of two regulatory bodies, Bangladesh Bank and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
PK Halder is now a fugitive while the depositors are desperately trying to recover their money.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed a case against PK Halder on 8 January on charges of amassing assets worth Tk 2.75 billion.
The four institutions grabbed by PK Halder are International Leasing and Financial Services, Peoples Leasing and Financial Services, FAS Finance and Investment Limited and Bangladesh Industrial Finance Company (BIFC).
The authorities last July appointed a liquidator to liquidate Peoples’ Leasing. PK Halder took over four institutions but there are no shares in his name in those institutions.
Prothom Alo investigations found PK Halder is the genuine owner although all the shares are bought in others’ names.
He took this strategy as a cover. He set up a number of companies which are merely on paper, resembling his own name.
The companies include P and L International, P and L Venture, P and L Business Enterprise, Hal International, Hal Travel, Hal Trip, Hal Capital and Hal Technology.
His other companies are Annon Chemical, Northern Jute, Sukhada Limited and Reptile Farms.
Relatives including PK Halder’s mother Lilaboti Halder, brother Pritish Kumar Halder and his wife Susmita Saha, cousin Amitab Audhikari and Avijit Audhikari are the owners of these companies according to the documents.
Former MD of Bank Asia Irfanuddin Ahmed and former colleague Ujjal Kumar Nandi also own several organisations.
PK Halder’s name came to the limelight during the anti-casino operation. The ACC opened investigation against 43 people including PK Halder.
He was asked to appear at ACC for interrogation on 14 November. The government issued a travel ban on him on 3 October. But he fled the country. He also transferred most of the money.
On request of ACC, BB’s Financial Intelligence Unit (BFU) made a special report on the financial transactions of PK Halder. Massive irregularities and forgery came up in the report too.
According to the report, some Tk 16 billion was deposited in accounts of PK Halder and his different companies. Some Tk 12 billion was deposited in accounts of three companies, Tk 2.40 billion in the account of PK Halder and Tk 1.60 billion in accounts of his mother Lilaboti Halder.
However, only Tk 100 million is now deposited in these accounts.
PK Halder took away Tk 20 billion from an international leasing firm.
Prothom Alo investigations found that the ownership of these financial institutions was bought with this money. But there is no trace of the entire money taken as loan.
Previous colleagues of PK Halder and his relatives are board members of these institutions. The central bank has extended all sorts of cooperation in changing the ownership.
Who is this PK Halder?
PK Halder was born in Dighirjan village of Najirpurupazila in Pirojpur. His father is Pronendu Halder who father has died. His mother was a teacher of a government primary school. Both PK Halder and his brother Pritish Kumar Halder completed graduation from Bangladesh University of Engineering (BUET).
PK Halder was deputy managing director of financial institution IIDFC in 2008. With 10 years of banking experience, he joined Reliance Finance as MD in 2009. He became MD of NRB Global in July of 2015.
Two brothers together launched a company named Trip Technology in India in 2018. Pritish Kumar Halder is now one of the directors. Their office is located at Mahajati Sadan in Kolkata.
Another company named P and L Hal Holding Ink was launched in Canada in 2014. PK Halder, Pritish Kumar Halder and his wife Susmita Saha are the directors of the company.
According to website of Canadian government, they own the house no. 16 on Doncrest Road of Toronto in Canada.
The cell phone of PK Halder remained switched off for two months. Questions were sent through WhatsApp and email, but no answer from him.
PK Halder possesses so much money
Some Tk 2.40 billion was deposited in several bank accounts including Bank Asia, NRB Global, International Leasing in PK Halder’s name.
PK Halder himself is chairman of Hal Travel Agency. Some Tk 4.07 billion deposited in different banks is transferred to the accounts of Hal Travel. He is also director of First Communication. Some Tk 8.23 billion was deposited to the bank accounts of First Communication.
PK Halder has 90 per cent and his mother 5 per cent share in Sukhada Limited. Some Tk 204 billion is deposited in this account.
Some Tk 1.60 billion is deposited to three bank accounts of Lilaboti Halder. More Tk 630 million of three clients taken as loan from Reliance Finance was deposited to the accounts of LilabotiHalder. At that time PK Halder was MD of Reliance Finance.
No bank raised questions of so much money of a retired teacher.
His brother Pritish Kumar Halder has Tk 5 million in his bank accounts. He owns different firms including Hal Technology, Hal Trip Technology, P and L Holding, Micro Technologies and Northern Jute. Some Tk 5 billion deposited in these firms.
Whose money, where is destination
Some Tk 2.44 billion was deposited in two bank accounts of Bank Asia’s Dhanmondi branch in PK Halder’s name. From these accounts, some Tk 2.05 billion was transferred to Reliance Brokerage, Tk 375 million to the accounts of Lilaboti, Tk 110 million to P and L Agro, Tk 30 million to Annon Chemical and Tk 40 million to FAS Capital Management.
Annan Chemical took control of Peoples Leasing in 2015. This share was bought through FAS Capital Management and Reliance Brokerage.
Some Tk 1.60 billion was deposited in bank accounts of Lilaboti Halder in different times. An account was opened in First Securities Islami Bank on 7 March 2013 and the account was closed on 26 August in the same year.
Three firms named Emexco, Barna and Orial deposited Tk 190 million in five months. Some Tk 90 million was deposited in another account, which was closed in 30 days. These three firms took loans of Tk 630 million from Reliance Finance. At that time, PK Halder was MD of Reliance Finance. The office of these three firms is on the 10th floor of Eastern Trade Centre at Purana Paltan, it is now closed for three months.
Hal Travel Service is mainly a travel agency which is known as Hal trip. Its chairman is PK Halder and MD Tajbir Hasan. PK Halder owns 90 per cent shares. Some Tk 4.07 billion was deposited in several bank accounts of this organisation.
Speaking to Prothom Alo at the Trip office on 21 December 2019, its MD Tajbeer Hasan said PK Halder adds to the ownership of Hal Travel in February of 2017. Tickets are sold up to Tk 30 million every month.
When asked who deposited Tk 4 billion in three years? He could not answer this question.
PK Halder is a director of First Communication, IGW approved by Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC). Some Tk 8.23 billion was deposited in First Securities Bank of the organisation.
When PK Halder was MD, Reliance Finance lent to the organisation.
PK Halder’s Bangladesh Micro-technology and Hal Technology have merged into Hal Technology. Its chairman is Irfanuddin Ahmed, former MD of Bank Asia, he is also share holder of the organisation.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Irfanuddin Ahmed said, “I joined after merging of Hal Technology. I have left recently.”
Sources said he is still looking after different firms of PK Halder.
Where all the companies are fake
Most of the institutes, existing only on paper to get bank loans and take control of the financial institutions, have given their office address at Purana Paltan’s Eastern Trade Center’s 10th floor and Karwan Bazar DH Tower’s 8th and 14th floors.
Sukumar Mridha has been running his law firm named ‘Sukumar and associates’ at Eastern Trade Center’s 10th floor for around 20 years. Sukumar oversees tax files of PK Halder and his family for a long time. From this connection, whole 10th floor of the building houses offices of companies under fake names.
Hal Enterprise, Hal International, Swandip International, Wintel International, Emexco, Barna, Arabi Enterprise, SA Enterprise and some other companies were registered using the address of that building. Signboards of some companies still exist on the floor but rooms are under lock and keys for the last two months.
Prothom Alo talked with Sukumar Mridha at his office. He was working on Pritish Kumar Halder’s tax file at that moment.
“I was acquainted with them (the Halder family). I prepare their tax files for long. They suddenly put up a signboard of Hal Enterprise on my door. I’m not involved with this,” SukumarMridha told Prothom Alo.
But Sukumar Mridha’s daughter Anindita Mridha is director of Wintel International, according to office of the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms (RJSC). That organisation took Tk 400 million loan from FAS Finance and Tk 600 million from International Leasing. Also share was bought from financial institution BIFC in name of Sukumar Mridha’s daughter.
Shahid Uddin, president of Eastern Trade Center’s owner association, told Prothom Alo that, Sukumar knows better who uses those rooms.
Reptiles Farm, Annon Chemical, Northern Jute, Rahman Chemical, Aziz Fibers and some more companies have offices at Karwan Bazar’s DH Tower. PK Halder owns all these companies. Prothom Alo talked with Ujjal Kumar Nandi on 21 December.
“I took charge of chairman of FAF Finance and then of Peoples’ getting invitation from PK Halder. That was biggest mistake of my life,”” Ujjal told Prothom Alo.
Ujjal added that he handed over Northern Jute’s responsibility to Pritish Kumar Halder and want to forgo other responsibilities too.
Ujjal was Industrial and Infrastructure Development Finance Company Limited’s (IIDFC) secretary till 2010. On October 2013, PK Halder made him director of FAS Finances. Later he was made chairman of Anon Chemical and Peoples Leasing. He was also made chairman of Northern Jute, Rahman Chemical, and Clewiston Food.
How was four financial institutions taken over
PK Halder took control of four institutions by purchasing the shares of those companies from share market. Bangladesh Bank somewhat helped in taking over of Peoples Leasing and Bangladesh Industrial Finance Company Limited (BIFC). Central bank took action against some former members of board of directors of those two companies for taking loan by flouting rules. Taking this chance, PK Halder purchased shares and took control of these two companies.
Two companies named Sukuza Venture and Kanchi Venture have the control of BIFC. These two companies were registered on the same day of December 2015, said sources of RJSC. Sukhada Limited and Sukumar Mridha’s daughter Anindita Mridha own share of Sukuza Venture. Anindita alone owns 90 per cent share while Bank Asia’s former managing director Irfanuddin Ahmed represents Sukhada Limited. Irfanuddin was also chairman of BIFC for some day. Also, 95 per cent share of Kanchi Venture owned by Hal International which is represented by Irfanuddin.
Sukumar Mridha told Prothom Alo, “PK Halder made my daughter director of the company. I don’t know anything more.”
Anon Chemical used to control Peoples’ Leasing. Pritish Kumar Halder owns 94 per cent share of Anon Chemical and his cousin Avijit Adhikari owns 5 percent share.
P&L International and Reptiles Farm control FAS Finance. Also, P&L International, managing director of KHB Securities’ Rajib Som and his wife Shimu Roy own Reptiles Farm. In fact, PK Halder owns all these companies.
Rajib Som told Prothom Alo, “I’m a salaried official of securities and Reptiles Farm. We also have some shares in farm and securities. I’m not involved with anything else.”
Hal International, BR International, Nature Enterprise and New Tech Enterprise control International Leasing. Those companies were registered in 2015. PK Halder himself is owner of 70 per cent share of Hal International. International Leasing was a well performing company until Halder took control of it in 2015. Tk 20.29 billion was withdrawn from the financial institute by some 30 companies. Bangladesh Bank report said PK Halder is beneficiary of all these 30 companies.
Bangladesh Bank’s former governor Salehuddin Ahmed told Prothom Alo that it is inconceivable how a single person alone can take control four financial institutions. There was no supervision of Bangladesh Bank.
He raised question as to why the authorities did not appoint any administrator even after being aware of irregularities.
Salehuddin said financial irregularities are spreading like contagious disease in the country as no action was taken for such crimes in the past.
The government should take stern action against these crimes, he said adding that otherwise financial sector would crumble.
Salehuddin said it would be damaging for all if financial sector face debacle.
*This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam and Galib Ashraf.