The trick Proshanta Kumar Halder used to swindle Tk1,300 crore from FAS Finance & Investment Ltd is the same one used in People's Leasing, International Leasing and a few other financial institutions with his relatives and associates in key positions.
An enquiry report from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) – prepared over the scam in FAS Finance – revealed this connection, insiders have said, adding that the ACC is planning to file 20 more cases accusing 75 people over the scams in FAS Finance and International Leasing.
Halder – the former managing director of the International Leasing and Financial Services Ltd – and his cohorts sanctioned loans for companies that exist only on paper, and then transferred the money to organisations in which they hold all the stakes, thus embezzling those funds.
They repeatedly applied the same trick to embezzle at least Tk10,000 crore from several financial institutions in a series of scams being unearthed in the last couple of years.
ACC Deputy Director Gulshan Anwar Pradhan is investigating the scams.
Among others, the commission will accuse PK Halder, FAS Finance Chairman Siddiqur Rahman, Vice-Chairman Jahangir Alam, former director Ujjal Kumar Nandi, Director Birendra Kumar Som, MA Hafiz, Soma Ghosh and Ataharul Islam in those cases.
ACC sources further said the commission, as part of the investigation, will soon summon Bangladesh Bank's former deputy governor SK Sur Chowdhury and Executive Director Shah Alam, over allegations that these two people have aided PK Halder in his scams.
Loans granted to shell companies
According to the ACC report, the culprits had taken out a working capital loan from FAS Finance in the name of Konica Enterprise, but transferred the funds directly to other individuals and organisations.
On 8 March 2016, the scammers deposited Tk11.5 crore using three cheques to the Standard Chartered Bank, under the name Total Transportation Ltd. The same month, they deposited Tk6.7 crore using three cheques to Bank Asia Ltd Dhanmondi Branch, under the name Sandwip Corporation – which is owned by Swapan Kumar Mistri.
During that period they also deposited Tk3.3 crore to Mercantile Bank under the name of Ratan Kumar Biswas – the chairman of a company named Processing Plant Ltd. Besides, the scammers deposited Tk1 crore each to the Bank Asia's Dhanmondi Branch under the names of Hal International Ltd and Moon Enterprise on 21 September that year.
Similarly, the culprits took out a working capital loan in the name of MOH Fashion Ltd, but transferred the whole amount to Mercantile Bank's Progoti Sarani Branch under the name Fashion Plus Ltd.
The scammers took out loans in the name of MTB Marine Ltd, but instead of depositing the money to this particular company's account, they transferred the funds to other accounts belonging to various individuals and organisations.
An ACC inquiry revealed that the FAS Finance provided Tk1,300 crore in loans to 20 such shell companies, but not a taka went into the accounts of those organisations. Scammers distributed the money to various bank accounts owned by the PK Halder syndicate.
The shell companies are – SA Enterprise, Moon International Ltd, Sukhada Properties Ltd, Nature Enterprise, RB Enterprise, Dia Shipping Ltd, Newtech enterprise, Nutriqual Ltd, Ms Born, Konica Enterprise, Drinan Apparels, EndB Enterprise, Emar Enterprise, G&G Enterprise, Tamim & Talha, Hal Enterprise, Marine trust Ltd, EarthScope, MTB Marine.
How did FAS Finance get involved?
PK Halder's syndicate took control of the FAS Finance and Investment Ltd by purchasing shares near the end of 2014. They systematically fired the firm's existing employees and hired their own people.
The syndicate appointed Rasel Shahriar as the firm's managing director – who was a former colleague of PK Halder, and they worked together at the same firm in 2007. Ujjal Kumar Nandi appointed directors for the board.
Siddiqur Rahman and Jahangir Alam were both friends and business partners of PK Halder. Because of this connection, the syndicate tasked the duo with running the FAS Finance. PK Halder made the sole decision which shell companies will get the loans.
Board meetings were held in name only. Managing Director Rasel Shahriar did not scrutinise any of the shell companies before signing the credit memos, and then got those loans approved at the meetings without any mortgages.
After approval, the firm sanctioned the loans and then transferred the money to accounts belonging to PK Halder's syndicate. FAS Finance also deposited all money received from takeover loans to the syndicate-owned bank accounts, not to the takeover companies.
The ACC has so far quizzed 22 officials of the FAS Finance, including its chairman, board of directors and managing director, to investigate the embezzlement of Tk1,300 crore by issuing loans to 20 shell companies without any scrutiny and mortgage, through ill-motivation, fraud, and misuse of power.
During the ACC's questioning, the firm's directors and chairman have confessed their involvement in the irregularities. They also admitted that PK Halder used to visit the Managing Director Rasel Shahriar's room frequently and attended the board meeting – despite not being an employee of FAS Finance.
Companies that exist on paper only
During the investigation, the ACC attempted to track down PK Halder's 22 companies that took out loans from FAS Finance using a fraudulent process. The commission found that 20 of these organisations exist on paper only, and have no offices at the addresses they provided.
The ACC managed to track down two companies from the list, but they were found to be shut down. Later, another four-man team led by FAS Finance Assistant Manager Md Nurul Amin spent two weeks to find the companies that took out Tk1,300 crore in loans, but to no avail.
The owners of these shell corporations either do not stay at their homes, or have escaped abroad. FAS Finance has almost no mortgages against such companies, so there is little chance of getting the money back.
The commission has so far filed ten cases regarding the PK Halder's scams, accusing 67 people in total. Most of these accused have been named in multiple cases.
On 8 January, the ACC filed yet another case against PK Halder, accusing him of amassing around Tk275 crore in illegal wealth. Currently abroad, Bangladesh had issued an arrest warrant against PK Halder through the Interpol in the beginning of this year.
The Special Judge Court of Dhaka had also directed authorities concerned to seize all immovable assets belonging to PK Halder.