A long delay in returning Tk 1,232 crore (12.32 billion) taken by the last caretaker government from businessmen and corporate houses has discouraged fresh investment in the country.
Many entrepreneurs even consider the delay a major barrier to the development of trade and commerce in the country.Bangladesh Bank is supposed to pay back the huge amount of the money to the businessmen.
The central bank has filed a review petition with the Supreme Court, seeking a repeal of its previous ruling that asked the authorities concerned to return the money.
Economists think that the non-payment of the money despite the orders by the Supreme Court and the prime minister will put a negative impact on both local and foreign investments.
Bangladesh will have to bear the brunt of an economic havoc for the next 10 years if the money is not given back to its original owners.
The businessmen hoped that the money will be paid back by the government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The irony is that Bangladesh Bank has resorted to lawsuits to block the payment of the money to the businessmen.Md Noor Ali, managing director of Unique Group of Companies Ltd, said, “They (key players behind caretaker government) took the money from us under coercion. They didn’t find any fault in us. We duly paid tax and VAT and operated business following all rules. Yet we were compelled to give the money. We are keen to see the review verdict and get back the money.”
Khondokar Ibrahim Khaled, former deputy governor of Bangladesh Bank, said, “The central bank is the custodian of the money. It has no right to block or delay the payment. Besides, the government has a duty to comply with the Supreme Court order.”
Bangladesh Bank director and Bangladesh Economic Association general secretary Dr Jamal Uddin Ahmed said the money in question should be paid back to its owners to restore confidence in the business sector. If the money is not paid back, the businessmen may refrain from fresh investment in the country.
According to sources, businessmen were extorted Tk 1,232 crore by a section of army officials during the caretaker regime led by Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed.
The delinquent army officials have not been punished yet for illegally taking the money from various corporate houses.
The affected businessmen and victims said the government should have punished the players involved in the extortion.
The extortion wreaked havoc on robbed business houses and companies. Many of them are counting loan interest while shareholders of public limited companies are being deprived of interest.
The incident has cast a negative impact on the stock market also, sources claimed.
On March 16, 2017, the Supreme Court had directed the government authorities concerned to return the money to the businessmen concerned within three months.
The players behind the caretaker government took the money from the businessmen under coercion. Many businessmen were tortured and intimidated by them on the pretext that their businesses operated in violation of rules.
Later, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) failed to prove allegations against the businessmen.
Rather, the decision to take the money from the businessmen has come out to be wrong and unacceptable.
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) leaders also want the money back.
FBCCI president Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin earlier said the affected businessmen have the right to get the money back.
The government authorities concerned should execute the apex court directive, he added.
According to sources, the businessmen have been demanding the money since assumption of power by the Awami League government.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is reportedly keen to return the money. But the businessmen are worried for not getting the money back yet.
In the circumstance, the businessmen have made an appeal to the finance ministry to take step to return the money following the order of Supreme Court.
Some delinquent members of Task Force Intelligence (TFI) and an intelligence agency took Tk 1,232 crore from 40 businessmen and corporate houses illegally during a period from 2007 to 2008.
The money was allegedly deposited with the Bangladesh Bank under 0900 account number of the government through over 200 pay orders.
Following 11 writ petitions filed by aggrieved businessmen, the High Court directed the government to return the money within three months.
Later, the Bangladesh Bank filed an appeal with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, challenging the HC decision.
On March 16, 2017, the SC upheld the HC verdict, asking the government to return the money.
In its order, the SC observed that military’s spy agency DGFI went beyond its jurisdiction to take money from businesses illegally during the emergency rule, and the military-controlled caretaker government was silent about the matter.
“The above facts clearly proved that the entire money has been extorted from the writ petitioners by DGFI during abnormal situation of the country,” said the SC.
The SC further said Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) did not have any jurisdiction to collect the said money in the name of the government under any law of the land.
According to sources, James Finlay Limited gave Tk 117.41 crore in 16 pay orders to the government’s fund in 2007. Later, it deposited Tk 120.24 crore more through 15 pay orders.
Other affected business enterprises are Bashundhara Group, Sikder Group of Companies Limited, Jamuna Group, MGH Group, Amin Mohammad Group, Sagufta Group, Hosaf Group, Partex Group, Swadesh Properties Limited, Islam Group, Concord Engineering Group, Kabir Steel, Ashiyan Group, Pink City, Bangladesh Ship Breaker’s Association, Arab Bangladesh Bank Foundation, Elite Paint, AB Bank Limited, Concord Real Estate and Unique Group.
Money was also extracted from former BNP MP Kazi Salimul Haque Kamal, former state minister for Home Lutfuzzaman Babar, BNP senior vice chairman Tarique Rahman’s friend Giasuddin Al Mamun, Director of Unique Group Nur Ali, and businessmen Rezaul Karim, Abu Sufiyan, Showkat Ali Chowdhury, Wakil Ahmed and Abdul Awal Mintoo.