Within a week after his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate at Ashoknagar in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas in May 2022 on charges of money laundering, a Bangladeshi banker revealed to his interrogators that kickbacks to the tune of Tk 1,500 crore were allegedly paid to the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s son Sajeeb Wazed Joy in 2014, according to ED documents accessed by Northeast News.
Sheikh Hasina reached Delhi this afternoon to attend the G20 Summit and is scheduled to meet her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for bilateral talks before returning to Dhaka later in the evening.
The documents disclose the names of relatives and associates of apex level politicians, from across the Bangladeshi political spectrum, who were paid kickbacks or received “financial benefits” for the award of business contracts to a powerful and influential businessman Mohammad Saiful Alam. A resident of Singapore, Alam is the chairman of Reliance Finance Ltd and NRB Global Bank Ltd besides other businesses in Bangladesh and other Southeast Asian countries.
Halder, who was managing director of Reliance Finance Ltd between 2009 and 2015, said in his supposed confession to the ED that “In the year 2014, I was engaged by Md. Saiful Alam to negotiate with the Chinese side (for a 1300 MW capacity power plant in Bangladesh with Chinese equity participation) on financial and technical issues of the said power plant, on his behalf.
“The cost of the power plant was initially meant to be $1.5-1.6 billion but the same was fraudulently increased to around $2.5 billion by showing the value of the land at much inflated prices. Md. Saiful Alam also inflated the construction costs of the power plant. The financing of the power plant was done from Islamic Bank Bangladesh Ltd which is owned and controlled by Md. Saiful Alam,” according to the statement.
“Also, a tax exemption relating to customs duty on imports of certain components; for the said power plant, was granted to Md. Saiful Alam which led to a gain of about Tk 3000 crores for his company. This favour was extended by the present Bangladesh government, in lieu of kickbacks/financial benefits extended to Mr Sajeeb Wazed Joy…by Md. Saiful Alam to the tune of Tk 1500 crores,” the disclosure statement to the ED reveals.
Sajeeb Wazed has not made any public appearances in Bangladesh over the past two years and is believed to be living at an undisclosed location somewhere abroad. However, he has, from time to time, surfaced in Oman and the US during this period.
The documents could not be independently verified by Northeast News but Halder’s disclosure of the “big” names during his interrogation was confirmed by ED public prosecutor in the case, Arijit Chakraborty, who in July 2022 said that the arrested Bangladeshi banker revealed that influential people in India as well as Bangladesh were involved in the “embezzlement”, stopping short of individually identifying them publicly. Since then, however, the ED’ s case has not progressed beyond the routine court procedures.
Shib Shankar Halder, who went by the assumed name of Proshanta Kumar Halder before his arrest at Ashoknagar in North 24 Parganas, along with five other associates, also Bangladeshis, was arrested by the ED on May 14, 2022. According-to ED documents, the arrests were made following “search operations” at 11 premises linked to Halder. Charges under Section 50(2) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, were slapped against Halder and his five associates.
It was found during the searches, the ED claimed in a May 15 document, that Halder, “along with his other associates fraudulently obtained various (Indian) government identities like ration card, voter identity card and Aadhar card” in West Bengal. They claimed to have “ascertained” that “these Bangladeshi nationals…also managed to float companies in India on the basis of fraudulently obtained identities and…even purchased properties in West Bengal”.
As the ED dug deeper, following an official investigation request to the Indian authorities by Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) earlier last year, it found that the scale of the scam and kickbacks to be massive and widespread — to the tune of Tk 10,000 crore involving bank fraud in Bangladesh, siphoning off money to other countries. Besides his Bangladeshi and fake Indian passports, Halder was found to be in the possession of a Grenada passport. The ED found that an Interpol ‘red corner’ notice was pending against Halder at that time.
Halder according to his statement to the ED, alleged during his interrogation that Alam has “effective control over six banks”, one non-banking financial institution, two general insurance companies and two life insurance companies. Besides, he owns two merchant banks and has membership on the Dhaka and Chittagong stock exchanges, in the “name of three companies controlled by him”.
According to Halder’s statement, in four banks (First Security Islam) Bank Ltd, Union Bank Ltd, Global Islami Bank Ltd and Social Islami Bank Ltd, “about 60 percent of the total credit facility has been given to different dummy companies/entities of Md. Saiful Alam”. At the same time, “almost 20 percent loan portfolio of these banks has been given to the directors of other banks”, including IFIC Bank that is owned and run by Salman Rehman, the industrial advisor to the Bangladesh prime minister. Halder adds in his statement that the “total borrowing of Md. Saiful Alam and the entities managed and controlled by him and his family members, from Government and other private banks, is to the tune of more than Taka 20,000 crore,” he alleged.
“Md. Saiful Alam, by virtue of his considerable financial resources…controls the levers of many important government departments and organisations in Bangladesh. He wields considerable influence in the appointment of the heads of top four government organisation(s) of Bangladesh viz. the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), Inspector General of Police (IGP) and Ministry of Law (Office of the Law Ministry),” Halder said in his statement to the ED.
The document also details the donations that Alan routinely made to Bangladesh’s political parties, including the Awami League and the Hefajat-e-Islam. “He donated around Taka 1500 crore to the Awami League in the last two elections held in 2013 (sic) and 2018,” Halder claimed. Of the donated money, “an amount of Taka 100 crore was arranged through me, by Md. Saiful Alan to his two companies,” Halder’s statement said.