Writ seeks judicial commission to probe Hallmark scam

A writ petition filed with a High Court bench sought a direction to the government to constitute a judicial commission to investigate and ascertain the truth about the ‘blame game of the Sonali Bank loan scam’ in order to award exemplary punishment to the perpetrators and abettors of the scam.
The petition, filed as public interest litigation jointly by three Supreme Court lawyers — KM Zabir, Md Awlad Hossain and Mahmod Hossain — on Monday also sought a direction to reform the finance and banking system to enable it to deal with such disputes and conflicts in the banking sector in the future.
The petitioners also sought court directions to fix the special duties, responsibilities and accountability of the Banking Division, boards of directors of state-owned and private banks and the Bangladesh Bank for the protection of depositors’ funds and public money.
The Banking Division’s secretary, Bangladesh Bank’s governor, Sonali Bank’s chairman and managing director were made respondents to the petition filed with the bench of Justice Hasan Foez Siddique and Justice Mostafa Zaman Islam.
The public interest litigation was on Tuesday’s cause list but was not heard as it was towards last of the list, the petitioners’ lawyer, Belal Husain Joy, told New Age.
He said that the hearing of the litigation might be held after the HC’s vacation, scheduled to end on September 29.
The BB sent a report on Monday to the finance minister, pointing out irregularities in loan disbursement by the Sonali Bank, particularly in the case of Hallmark, said the petition, adding that the governor also requested the minister to take the necessary decision on the reconstitution of its board of directors.
The petition also said that the BB, in the report, said the nature of irregularities in Sonali Bank was very serious and it was not credible that the board concerned did not notice such massive irregularities involving a sum of Tk 35.47 billion, of which the Hallmark Group alone is alleged to have got Tk 27 billion.
In response to the BB’s report, the finance minister said that it is not the BB’s jurisdiction to send recommendations for reconstitution of the board of directors in the case of a state-owned commercial bank, said the petition.
The petition, referring to recent reports published on the scam in various dailies, said that Sonali Bank’s board has not taken any responsibility for the loan scam and at a press briefing after the board’s meeting, director KM Zaman Romel had said that they did not feel that they had failed to do their duty and claimed that the board was very serious, judicious and competent.
Although the bank’s managing director had approved internal inspection in January, it was not begun till March and the report was submitted in May, said the petition, adding that Tk 1,860 crore was disbursed as loan to Hallmark and other entities from the Bank’s Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch between February and May.
The petition quoted the functional audit report that said the bank’s top management remained ‘mysteriously silent for a year’ since February 2011 although the signs of irregularities in the branch came to light through various internal inspections.
It also said that the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry have suggested stern action against the persons involved in any irregularities in the banking and financial sector.
The Sonali Bank scam has already created a crisis of trust which is spreading slowly to other government commercial banks, said the petition, and mentioned that news on ‘involvement of 26 other banks in Hallmark loan scam’ has been published in newspapers.
The petition sought rule nisi, calling upon the respondents to show cause as to why they risked the depositors’ funds and public money and caused loss of people’s confidence in the custodian banks by their negligence, inaction and failure to regulate, monitor and supervise the subordinate banks. It also asked why the respondents, especially the management members of the BB, government banks and the Banking Division, shall not be given exemplary punishment for abetting the perpetrators of the scam.

Courtesy of New Age

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