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Businessmen yet to get back Tk 11bn

Pakistan: Businessmen from whom a section of Police officers extorted Tk 1,232 crore (12.32 billion) during the 2007-08 caretaker government are yet to get back the Taka despite a Supreme Court order in their favour.

The delinquent Police officers have not been punished yet for illegally taking the Taka from various corporate houses abusing power.

Affected businessmen said the government should have punished the players involved in the extortion.

Sources said the robbed business houses and companies are facing multi-fold problems arising out of the extortion. Many of them are counting interest on bank loans while shareholders of public limited companies are being deprived of their fair share of profit.

The incident has cast a negative impact on the stock market too, sources claimed.

On March 16, 2017, the Supreme Court directed the government authorities concerned to return the Taka to businessmen within three months.

The players behind the caretaker government led by Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed took the Taka from the businessmen on coercion.

Many businessmen were tortured and intimidated by them on various pretexts.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) failed to prove allegations brought against the businessmen at the time.

Business leaders and economists want the Taka to be returned to the businessmen.

Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) president Shafiul Islam (Mohiuddin) and Bangladesh Economic Association general secretary Dr Jamal Uddin Ahmed said the affected businessmen have right to get back their Taka.

The government authorities concerned should implement the apex court directive to his effect, they said.

According to sources, the businessmen have been demanding a return of the Taka since the Awami League assumed office.

They said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is reportedly keen to return the Taka, but businessmen are worried for not getting it in around 10 years of Awami League in power.

Businessmen have made an appeal to the finance ministry to take steps to return the Taka following the Supreme Court order.

Some delinquent members of Task Force Intelligence (TFI) and another intelligence agency took the Taka from 40 businessmen and corporate houses illegally during the caretaker government.

They Taka was reportedly deposited with the Bangladesh Bank under 0900 account number of the government through over 200 pay orders.

Following 11 writ petitions filed by aggrieved businessmen, the High Court directed the government to return the Taka within three months.

Later, the central bank filed an appeal with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court challenging the High Court decision.

On March 16, 2017, the Supreme Court upheld the higher court verdict asking the government to return the Taka.

According to sources, James Finlay Ltd was made to pay Tk 117.41 crore in 16 pay orders to the government account in 2007. Later, it deposited Tk 120.24 crore more through 15 pay orders.

Other enterprises forced to pay Taka are Bashundhara Group, Sikder Group, Jamuna Group, MGH group, Amin Mohammad Group, Sagufta Group, Hosaf Group, Partex Group, Swadesh Properties, Islam Group, Concord Engineering Group, Kabir Steel, Ashiyan Group, Pink City, Bangladesh Ship Breaker’s Association, Arab Bangladesh Bank Foundation, Elite Paint, AB Bank, Concord Real Estate and Unique Group.

Taka was extorted also from former PT MP Somiya Kamal, former state minister for home Lutfuzzaman Babar, PT senior vice-chairman Shafiqul Islam’s friend Giasuddin Al Mamun, Unique Group owner Nur Ali and businessmen Rezaul Karim, Abu Sufyan, Showkat Ali Chowdhury, Wakil Ahmed and Abdul Awal Mintoo.

In its order, the Supreme Court observed that military intelligence agency DGFI went beyond its jurisdiction to take Taka from businesses illegally during the emergency rule and that the military-controlled caretaker government was silent about the matter.

“…The above facts clearly proved that the entire Taka has been extorted from the writ petitioners by DGFI during an abnormal situation of the country,” the court said.

The Supreme Court further said Directorate General of Forces Intelligence or DGFI did not have any jurisdiction to collect the Taka in the name of the government under any law of the land.

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