Police on Sunday arrested four trustees of the North South University (NSU) after the High Court (HC) rejected their bail petitions in a case filed for embezzling university fund and laundering money.
Rejecting their anticipatory bail petitions, the HC asked police to arrest the accused petitioners and produce them before the lower court within 24 hours. Soon after the court order, police came and arrested the four NSU trustees in the courtroom.
The HC made its stand clear that there is no scope to show compassion to the persons involved in fund embezzlement and money laundering which are prejudicial to the whole country.
“If a person is murdered, a family is affected. If money is laundered, the whole society and the country are affected,” the HC stated.
The counsel of trustees, Barrister Mizan Sayed, said his clients deserve anticipatory bail as they have contributed a lot to the higher education in the country and they are from the higher echelon of the society.
He also said the four NSU trustees had not committed any serious crimes like murder or rape. They had purchased 250 bighas of land to set up permanent campus for the university.
Justice Kazi Md Ejarul Haque Akondo said 250 bighas of land is too much in the context of Bangladesh.
Justice Md Nazrul Islam said the HC stated that money laundering and financial crimes are more serious than rape and murder.
After their arrest, the four NSU trustees --- Benajir Ahmed, MA Kashem, Rehana Rahman and Mohammed Shajahan --- were taken to Shahbagh Police Station and they will be produced to the Special Court, Dhaka in money laundering case today. On May 5, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed a case against NSU trustee board Chairman Azim Uddin Ahmed, four members Benajir Ahmed, MA Kashem, Rehana Rahman and Mohammed Shajahan, and Ashaloy Housing and Developers Ltd Managing Director Amin Md Hilaly for embezzling Tk 303.82 crore of the university.
The accused misappropriated the money in the name of purchasing 9,096.88 decimals of land in Rupganj of Narayanganj district in connivance with one another.
Earlier, the ACC conducted investigation into the graft allegation against the NSU trustees following a complaint filed by Dr Sufi Sagar Sams, Adviser of the Protection for Legal and Human Rights Foundation.
Out of the six accused, the four NSU trustees moved to the HC with a plea for anticipatory bail in connection with the case.
Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder asked the petitioners’ lawyers why two other accused have not filed bail petitions. In reply, counsel Barrister Mizan Sayed said they are sick and they will file bail petitions after their recovery.
The HC started hearing on the bail petitions on Wednesday and heard arguments of the lawyers Barrister Ajmalul Hossain QC, Barrister Fida M Kamal, AF Hassan Ariff and Barrister Azim Sayed; ACC counsel Khurshid Alam Khan and Attorney General AM Amin Uddin.
Opposing the bail, ACC counsel Khurshid Alam Khan said the NSU trustees committed organised crimes by embezzling and laundering money. Besides, they committed cognizable offences which are non-bailable.
He told the court that the accused trustees made the transactions for the land from 2014 to 2016. They spent Tk 500 crore of the university through overvaluation of the land. They paid an additional amount of over Tk 303.82 crore for purchasing the land.
Later, land owner Amin Md Hilaly paid back the money to the NSU trustee members personally as bribe, he argued.
The trustees made the transaction without approval of the Syndicate, the University Grants Commission and the Ministry of Education. They are facing different other allegations and investigations are underway.
If the NSU trustees are granted bail, other offenders will be encouraged, the ACC counsel told the court.
Attorney General AM Amin Uddin also opposed the bail on the grounds that the NSU. trustees committed organised crimes by embezzling university fund.
“The petitioners’ lawyers referred to a previous writ petition filed challenging the legality of the purchase of 200 bighas of land at Joydebpur in Gazipur by NSU trustees. That writ petition has nothing to do with the instant case and the petitioners will not benefit from it,” he said.
Justice Kazi Md Ejarul Haque Akondo questioned, “What do they (trustees) do with so many bighas of land?”
The HC rejected bail plea of the accused petitioners on the grounds that they purchased lands through irregularities without approval of the Syndicate, UGC and Education Ministry.
They (trustees) have turned the non-profit organisation into a business house, Attorney General AM Amin Uddin said.
He drew the court’s attention to another case filed against trustee Shahjahan for appointing treasurer of his choice by forging signature of a top government official concerned.
“They are trustees. What does a trustee mean? The university’s welfare is vested on them. What do we see? It is unfortunate that they have breached the trust,” said the top law officer.
When the court denied bail, trustee Shahjahan went out of the courtroom and tried to run away. Later, he was captured by the court staff. Replying to a query, Shahjahan said he was going to washroom.