Stashed kickbacks may go way beyond $200m
US-UK team to hand over evidence, help recover money for Dhaka at no cost
A foreign delegation flew into Bangladesh on Sunday to identify the persons involved in laundering $200 million dollar to Singapore, and to help Bangladesh recover the money.
The money was allegedly paid in kickbacks to former prime minister Khaleda Zia's younger son Arafat Rahman Koko and several ministers of the last BNP-led four-party alliance government.
The team is having discussions with different government agencies including the Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) about the case of international money laundering involving Koko.
Meanwhile, outgoing Attorney General Salah Uddin Ahmad said the delegation already traced $200 million dollars of the laundered money, and the Bangladesh government must help them in recovering the amount which might even rise upon further investigation.
"The delegation is visiting Bangladesh to inform our government about the involvement of the former premier's son in the money laundering, and to assist Bangladesh in recovering it," Advocate Anisul Huq, a counsel to the ACC, told The Daily Star last night.
"The team will share all evidence, so the ACC may make use of those to bring the culprits to book," Anisul added.
Salah Uddin categorically mentioned that the foreign delegation came to Bangladesh to recover the laundered money, and to hand it over to the Bangladesh government, free of cost.
Different newspapers reported on Monday that a dozen of former BNP ministers were also involved in the international scandal and the visiting delegation handed over a list of 12 of them to the law minister during their meeting on Sunday.
Some newspapers also mentioned the names of some of those former ministers and their wives including of Barrister Moudud Ahmed, Dr Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain and his wife Bilkis Hossain, Nazmul Huda and his wife Sigma Huda, Anwar Hossain Manju and his wife Tasmima Hossain.
A source, however, told The Daily Star last night, "All the names mentioned in the newspaper reports are not on the list. The list includes only one or two."
The foreign delegation will stay in Bangladesh till Tuesday seeking mutual assistance in recovering about $200 million or more.
The delegation met the ACC yesterday, regarding which ACC Director General (Admin) Col Hanif Iqbal said, "The discussion was focused on various issues involving inter-country mutual assistance in recovering laundered money including evidence sharing."
In reply to a question regarding whether the foreign team sought any specific help in the investigation of Koko in connection with the money laundering, he said, "The matter figured prominently in the discussion," adding that both foreign governments and also the Bangladesh government have many evidence regarding Koko's involvement.
About the disclosure by the ACC about Koko siphoning off Tk 11 crore to a Singapore bank account, Hanif said, "The matter is under investigation, so details of it can't be discussed," but added, "There is no possibility of the amount of money coming down, rather it might go up."
The visiting foreign delegation is comprised of US Justice Department Deputy Chief Linda M Samuel, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Agent Deborah Heprevotte, and UK Institute of Management Consultant Ferdous Ahmed, who discussed the matter with the commission in an hour-long meeting in its headquarters in the capital since 9:30 in the morning.
Hanif Iqbal also said the ACC looks into issues of mutual legal assistance with instructions from the Attorney General's (AG) Office as the office is the central authority for dealing with Mutual Legal Assistance Request (MLAR).
When asked about the list of 12 accomplices published in the media he said, "The ACC is responsible to assist the central authority, it does not accept any such list directly from any body."
Bangladesh has agreements with the US and UK according to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), under which the laundered money will be recovered from foreign banks.
Anisul Huq said the foreign delegation will recover the money and then hand it over to the Bangladesh government according to the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
He said if the accused are proven guilty they might be imprisoned for a maximum of seven years and fined.
The total processes of the recovery will be supervised by the UN, he added.
Meanwhile, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed yesterday told AFP that the US will help Bangladesh recover 200 million dollars of laundered foreign kickbacks to a group that includes 'a son of a former prime minister'.
Tags: World Pressure
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