Zahir Uddin Tarique, chairman and CEO of Papella Limited, UFM (BD) Limited, Zeil's Ware Limited, Prime Footwear Limited, and Paduka Shoes Limited, has protested against a report carried by The Business Standard on 2 September 2021 under the headline "How a high-flying shoe entrepreneur inched towards a downfall".
In a rejoinder sent to TBS, Tarique said, "I never stayed in London. None of my family members lived abroad, plus I do not have any residence other than that in Barishal, not even in Dhaka."
On Papella Limited, he said, "We did not get enough support from Uttara Bank Ltd in Covid-19 pandemic. So, we had to keep the factory closed from June 2020."
On Zeil's Ware Limited, he said, "The factory is not completely closed; rather it is running on a very small scale. We moved to BASIC Bank Limited in 2017 with a big dream to make this factory as a footwear complex with all backward linkage plants. In 2018, our main customers Sears and Kmart USA became bankrupt. We did not get support from BASIC Bank as planned for smooth operation and timely export. We did not get any Covid-19 stimulus package from the bank either."
On Prime Footwear Ltd & Paduka Limited, the rejoinder said they did not get any support from banks. It also said the claim of around Tk14 crore by the Customs Bond is false. Over the VAT claim, a case is pending with the High Court division of the Supreme Court, added the rejoinder.
On UFM (BD) Ltd, the rejoinder said, "We started work through Dutch Bangla Bank Ltd (DBBL) but could not succeed due to much non-cooperation by DBBL. We had to close our factory on 1 May 2020."
The rejoinder mainly mentioned the "non-cooperation of the banks" that led to either factory closure or slashed production. It claimed the banks did not give them loans from the government-announced Covid-19 stimulus package.
But these were not the arguments of our report. Loan approvals solely lie with the banks. However, banks said the manufacturers could not fulfill the loan requirements.
The issue of staying in London is not related to the fact of our story too. It was mentioned since the workers and officials of the factories told The Business Standard that the owner returned home from London to build his "dream factories".
The story is about the gradual fall of the footwear-maker, and the current poor health of its businesses. As the core theme of our story was neither disclaimed nor contested, we stand by our report.