The High Court is left wondering why the Anti-Corruption Commission is not arresting Shitangshu Kumar Sur Chowdhury, a former deputy governor of Bangladesh Bank, and Md Shah Alam, an incumbent executive director of the central bank, even though their names surfaced in the Proshanta Kumar Halder scam.
The virtual bench of Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder and Justice Mohi Uddin Shamim suggested on Monday that the court will be forced to order arrest of SK Sur and Shah Alam if the ACC does not move in that direction.
The High Court had in early January slapped a travel ban on 25 people, including SK Sur and Shah Alam, while hearing a writ petition filed by five of the clients of Peoples Leasing and Financial Services Ltd or PLFSL who had lost their money in the scam.
Proshanta is a former managing director of the International Leasing and Financial Services Limited or ILFSL and NRB Global Bank.
He is accused of embezzling Tk 3.5 billion funds and purchasing large shares while taking control of four financial institutions, in which he placed his close associates in positions of power.
These companies are ILFSL, PLFSL, FAS Finance and Investment Company, and Bangladesh Industrial Finance Company.
The ACC had arrested Uzzal Kumar Nandi, chairman of PLFSL, and Rashedul Haque, former managing director of ILFSL, on charges of abetting the crimes allegedly committed by PK Halder, a fugitive from justice.
The National Board of Revenue had sought details of bank accounts of SK Sur and Shah Alam after Uzzal and Rashedul named them in the confessional statements in court.
Justice Nazrul on Monday asked ACC counsel Md Khurshid Alam Khan what the commission had done about the people who had given confessional statements in the case and named others in the statements.
When Khurshid said some of the people named in the statements were arrested while some others were on the run, the judge asked why the national graft buster was not arresting SK Sur and Shah Alam after their names appeared in media reports.
The Financial Intelligence Unit of the Bangladesh Bank froze their accounts as part of steps based on a letter from the ACC, Khurshid noted.
The judge then again asked the ACC lawyer: “Why aren’t you making arrests? We’ll be compelled to issue an order if you don’t arrest them. You can’t treat people like guests if they are accused of something. They must be put in jail.”
The Bangladesh Bank on Feb 4 transferred Shah Alam from the Department of Financial Institutions and Markets to another department after allegations surfaced against him.
SK Sur had worked as an advisor to the central bank after retirement in 2017.
The police and the central bank submitted two reports on PK Halder’s escape and Bangladesh Bank officials’ involvement in financial scams.
The High Court on Feb 15 ordered the police report to know how Halder fled Bangladesh even after its previous order to seize his passport.
Deputy Attorney General AKM Amin Uddin Manik, who represented the state in the hearing, said Halder left the country through Benapole Land Port in Jashore at 3:45pm on Oct 23, 2019. Citing the report, he said 59 members of Immigration Police were performing duty at the land port at that time.
“Immigration Police had not neglected duty in this case. They received the ACC letter on PK Halder after he fled,” he said.
The ACC letter, dated Oct 22, 2019 reached the immigration unit of the police’s Special Branch at 5:45pm on Oct 23, two hours after the escape of Halder.
“PK Halder’s path to escape could have been blocked had the ACC informed the Immigration Police about the matter on Oct 23 morning before sending the letter,” the report says.
Khurshid claimed the ACC had not neglected its duty leading to Halder’s escape. The additional inspector general of police received the copy of the letter at 10:30am on Oct 23, 2019 and another copy via WhatsApp at 2:43pm, according to him.
Deputy Attorney General Manik said the High Court gave the Bangladesh Bank seven more weeks to report specific officials’ action to prevent scams. The court adjourned the hearing until Apr 6.