Hallmark thrived on Sonali loan

An ex-manager found to be in thick of scam
Sonali Bank’s Agargaon branch in Dhaka has helped Tanvir Mahmud to turn Hallmark into a business giant through misappropriating the bank’s money, bank officials have said.
M Khairul Alam, manager of the branch for 2004-08, gave Tanvir, his associates and a cooperative society of Agargaon over Tk 5 crore loans without the required documents. More than half the amount is now shown as irrecoverable in the bank document.
In addition to money came ideas for Tanvir, the Hallmark managing director. Khairul also provided him with a ladder — AKM Azizur Rahman, head of the bank’s Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch — to go up. Azizur and Khairul are friends and studied at Jahangirnagar University, sources close to the duo said.
Using the ladder, Tanvir secured Tk 2,686 crore in loan from the hotel branch between 2010 and May this year.
A Sonali Bank investigation found Khairul’s involvement in various irregularities and gave a report recommending action against him early last year. But that could not stop him. He not only escaped punishment but also managed to get promoted to assistant general manager in March the same year. He is now posted in the bank’s Munshiganj principal office.
The Hallmark MD paid off nearly Tk 2 crore loans against his name in 2009, but the rest of the amount taken against false documents remains unpaid.
“Loans worth more than Tk 3 crore disbursed by Khairul Alam have become classified [irrecoverable]. We found many addresses of the borrowers fake. They do not exist,” said an official of the Agargaon branch.
Tanvir started business in 1996 with a small packaging industry at the capital’s Taltola where he is from. After he met Khairul in 2004 in Agargaon branch, getting bank loans seemed simple. There was one problem, though — the branch could not give a loan bigger than Tk 2 crore.
In early 2010, however, Khairul took Tanvir to his friend at the bank’s Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch.
“Khairul Alam introduced Tanvir Mahmud to Azizur Rahman as the Agargaon branch cannot issue big loans,” said a senior official who was involved in investigating the anomalies.
Fortune favoured Tanvir, again. Here, he met a female officer who happens to be a relative of Syed Modasser Ali, adviser to the prime minister. Also, the branch manager and the adviser come from the same district, Gopalganj.
“Tanvir was cleaver enough to utilise the advantage he got in the branch,” said a senior official of the bank.
“Suddenly in 2010 we started hearing that the prime minister’s adviser is a relative of Azizur Rahman [manager of the Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch]. But in reality, a female officer is the adviser’s relative,” the official added, preferring anonymity.
Later, a Bangladesh Bank investigation found that Hallmark and five other companies had embezzled Tk 3,547 crore from the Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch through submitting false documents. Of the amount, Hallmark took Tk 2,686 crore.
Asked about it, Tanvir Mahmud rejected the allegations in the probe report.
“I am ready to pay back the loan, but I need time,” he said.
According to him, Hallmark Group exported garment items worth $30 million in 2011-12.

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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