Dec 18
Mintoo’s Name Surfaced In Paradise Papers PDF Print E-mail

 

By Apu Ahmed

 

On November 2, the independent lawmaker, Rustam Ali Farazi, during a discussion at Jatiya Sangsad demanded investigation against those Bangladeshi businesspeople whose names came up in the Paradise Papers, a leaked document of 13.4 million data about the companies and their owners on offshore investment. He also demanded probe against the businesses whose names surfaced in another leaked paper titled the Panama Papers in 2016.

Paradise Papers

Out of 13.4 million data, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has released nearly 25,000 entities connected to the Paradise Papers investigation on November 18 in which nearly 25,000 entities connected to the Paradise Papers investigation. NFM Energy Limited, owned by businessman-turned-politician Abdul Awal Mintoo and his spouse and three sons, was found in the in the leaked papers. The names of more than 50 Bangladeshis, including ruling Awami League leader Kazi Zafarullah and his wife Nilufer Zafarullah, have appeared in the Panama Papers.

ACC

Both the papers deal with hundreds of companies which made investment in others than own countries to shelter large gains on investing from being tax heavily. In Bangladesh offshore is not allowed. But many countries allowed such investment with mandatory provision of declaring the investment in the tax file. The Anti-Corruption Commission who is investigating the companies owned by Bangladeshi and appeared in the Panama Papers could not make any headway during the last one year. Although it is reported that the anti-graft body would launch investigation into the Paradise Papers many expressed doubt its ‘capacity and strength’ to let the nation know about the truth of the off-shore investment perpetuated by local companies to dodge tax payment.

ACC’s Lacked Credibility

Argument behind failure of the ACC, anticipated by many, is because of it credibility that hit the bottom. Its failure to file case against former BASIC Bank chairman Sheikh Abdul Hye Bacchu was slammed again by the High Court on November 8. In 2015, the ACC sued 153 persons over a series of swindling in BASIC Bank that took place from 2009 to 2012, when Sheikh Abdul Hye Bacchu was chairman of BASIC Bank. But the name of Bacchu who enjoys Awami League led government’s full political backing, was not found in any cases. The court rebuked ACC lawyers Khurshid Alam Khan and AKM Fazlul Haque for ACC’s failure to arrest and prosecute Bacchu and former board of directors who sanctioned huge sums of shady loans to fictitious borrowers that took once profit making BASIC Bank into the brink bankruptcy. The High Court observed that innocent bank officers are made victim to give escape routes to Bacchu and his associated board of directors during that period.

Eyewash

Recently, the ACC has issued notice to Bacchu and others board of directors for recording their statements on the scams. The ACC’s notice could not be handed down to Bacchu as the former Army turned politician was in abroad. Don’t you think that the High Court should be convinced with the ACC’s effort to pursue Bacchu since the anti-graft body allowed the suspected to leave the country? Besides, the ACC officials have gone to the government officers’ offices for recording their statements instead of calling them into the ACC. The ACC’s effort to pick and choose policy, described by the High Court on the case of BASIC Bank, has not been changed. So, the ongoing statement recording programme from the former board of directors is nothing but eyewash by the ACC providing the fact that it would have to submit progress report about BASIC scams to the High Court.

Pananm Papers

Anti-Corruption Commission spokesman Pradip Bhattarjee said they had not yet got adequate information about 18 Bangladeshis, including Awami League presidium member Kazi Zafar Ullah, who were named in the Panama Papers. Zafarullah’s wife Nilufer was also been named as shareholders of Pathfinder Finance Limited and Hanseatic Limited in the British Virginia Islands. Mobile-phone operator Citycell CEO Mehboob Chowdhury, who had once worked for Grameenphone, was named in the Panama Papers along with broadband company AccessTEL owner Zain Omar, wireless internet provider Qubee's owner Afzalur Rahman, Bangla Trac owner Aminul Haque, and his sons Nazim Asadul Haque and Tarique Ekramul Haque, former foreign minister M Morshed Khan's brother-in-law Azmat Moyeen, Sarkar Jiban Kumar, Dilip Kumar Modi, Mullick Sudhir, Kazi Raihan Zafar, Md Yusuf Raihan Reza, Mahtabuddin Chowdhury, Benzir Ahmed, and Ishraq Ahmed. The inadequate information to ACC about Bangladeshi found in the papers should be described, according to insiders, as no green signal by the government to make progress on the issue.

No Green Signal

Same can be said about the Paradise Papers in which Bangladesh Nationalist Party Vice Chairman Abdul Awal Mintoo was named for registration of his energy company NFM Energy Ltd in tax haven Bermuda on August 9, 1999. The documents also revealed names of Mintoo's wife Nasreen Fatema Awal, and three sons -- Tabith Mohammed Awal, Tafsir Mohammed Awal and Tajwar Muhammed Awal as shareholders of this offshore company. Mintoo's business website Multimodebd.com has a page of NFM energy that says, ‘NFM Energy Limited is one of the industry leaders in gas drilling exploration sharing interests and investments in Chevron Bangladesh Ltd. It is engaged in Gas Exploration of blocks 12, 13 and 14.’ Mintoo enjoyed one per cent share, given by the American company Unocal to minimize risks in the local level.  The American oil giant Chevron acquired Unocal globally and bought Mintoo’s share some three years back. Chevron Bangladesh's annual profit hovered around a couple of hundred million dollars few years back. In spite of enjoying high level access to the AL government in the late 90s, in a sudden move right before the 2001 polls, Mintoo joined BNP.

Pain in Neck

So, it should be assumed that the ACC might not receive green signal from the present government to investigate in to Mintoo’s involvement in the offshore company as it would expose many secret information about energy deals during the previous tenure of the present government. Apart from ACC the Bangladesh Bank and National Board of Revenue have not make any noticeable moves other than stating that they would investigate the papers.  But the statement of the BB and NBR should not be taken seriously as they failed to stop capital flights from the country. Even the BB’s effort to gather information from the Malaysian central bank about Bangladeshi availing ‘Second Home’ facility in Malaysia by investing there was rejected. So, most of financial scams of the Bangladeshi in home and abroad would remain uninvestigated and would stay as ‘pain in neck’ for the nation.