Saturday, July 13, 2024
বাড়িenglishTarique-Koko’s corruption stories in Paradise Papers

Tarique-Koko’s corruption stories in Paradise Papers

After the death of dictator-murderer Ziaur Rahman, he was tried to be shown as a saint on television who left behind a broken suitcase and a torn t-shirt. Zia, however, in the name of multi-party democracy, rehabilitated war criminals, gave overseas jobs to the killers of the Father of the Nation and created an elite class of corrupt people. After a few years of Zia’s death, members of his family surprisingly became billionaires and the owners of Koko launches 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, textile mills, houses abroad, shopping malls, bank-balances of thousands of billion dollars. Through opening Hawa Bhaban, Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman, two sons of Zia and Khaleda Zia, had laundered thousands of billion dollars to several countries. The court has found Khaleda Zia and her two sons guilty of corruption and sentenced to jail in corruption cases. They have not only become billionaires, but have also laundered that money abroad.

The US Department of Justice had seized Tk 120 million from Tarique Rahman. The laundered money was brought back to Bangladesh in 2012. Tarique and his business partner Gias Uddin Al Mamun laundered Tk 210 million to the City Bank NA in Singapore. The FBI is investigating the case. In 2012, Debra Laprevotte, a supervisory special agent of the FBI, testified before a special court in Dhaka and narrated before the court how she had tracked down the money allegedly laundered by Tarique and Mamun to a bank account in Singapore. Tarique was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment and fined Tk 210 million. In the same way, Tarique’s laundered Tk 60 million had been found in a London bank. And the money had been seized. Apart from this, the money and wealth of Khaleda Zia’s two sons were discovered in many other parts of the world. They include $750 million in Belgium, $250 million in Malaysia, a villa worth millions of dollars in Dubai (Address: Spring-14, Villa-12, Emirates Hills, Dubai) and a market in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, both of them had also moved money to many other places in the world. Like Tarique Rahman, his late brother Arafat Rahman Koko earned money through corruption and was involved in money laundering. Khaleda Zia’s sons and brothers took Tk 9.80 billion from a state-owned bank, which has not been returned yet.

The Anti-Corruption Commission brought back a total of Tk 210,055,394 laundered by BNP Chairperson Khaleda’s younger son Arafat Rahman Koko from abroad. Through mutual legal assistance request, the ACC in November, 2012 received Tk 134,482,131 and Tk 74,369,415 in August 2013 from Koko’s bank account in Singapore. This money was sent to Bangladesh from Singapore Overseas Bank. Later in the same month, the amount was deposited in Sonali Bank’s Ramna corporate branch as Stolen Recovery Asset of the ACC. The anti-graft body had also received around Tk 15,000 as interest for the laundered money. This money, which was more than Tk 21 crore with dividends, had been taken by Koko from multinational company Siemens as a bribe. The conference on the UN Convention against Corruption that was held at the US Department of Justice from August 29 to 31 in 2012 presented profiles of topmost corrupt people of different countries. Of them, there was Khaleda’s son Arafat Rahman Koko. His name came up in the list of world’s top money launderers. On that conference it was said that Koko was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment and fined Tk 38.83 crore in Bangladesh on charges of laundering Tk 20 crore in Singapore.

Coordinated by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Bank, a booklet prepared by the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative cites Koko’s bribery from Siemens as an example of ‘laundering national currency’.  The booklet was published in Vienna on 16 December 2010. On page 179 of the booklet, it is stated that in 2009, the US Department of Justice took steps to seize the money given to the son of the former Prime Minister of Bangladesh as a bribe by a foreign company. On January 8, 2009, the US authorities initiated legal action in a District of Columbia court to recover $3 million. Koko took the money from Siemens and deposited it in a Singapore-based bank.

The case was filed with Dhaka’s Kafrul Police Station on March 17, 2009, accusing Koko and Ismail Hossain Saimon, son of former Shipping Minister late Akbar Hossain, of smuggling and transacting bribe money abroad to let Siemens Bangladesh get the work. ACC Deputy Director Md Abu Sayeed filed the case under Section 4 (2) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act-2009. In the case statement, Koko was accused of smuggling 2,884,603.15 Singapore dollars and 932,672.81 US dollars to Singapore. According to the case statement filed with Kafrul police station, between 2004 and 2006, Arafat Rahman Koko laundered the ill-gotten money abroad under the influence of power, which was an offence punishable under Section 4 (2) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2009. The plaintiff stated that Lim Siu Chang, a Singaporean national, had registered a company in Singapore and opened an account with United Overseas Bank (UOB) Ltd. The condition of the account was that the money could be withdrawn only with the signature of Koko or the joint signature of Lim and Koko. A copy of Koko’s duplicate passport was also attached with the application form for opening the account. The money was deposited through China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd, Dhaka and China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd, Chattogram to the account of UOB Ltd, Singapore from Citibank NA, New York and HSBC Bank, USA. The money was deposited in Koko’s account as a bribe for the construction of a container terminal at Chattogram port. In addition, Koko received a huge amount of bribe from Siemens for buying the equipment and other service for the state-owned mobile phone company Teletalk. Siemens Bangladesh agent Md Zulfiqar Ali deposited 303,254 Singapore dollars in the account of Koko’s UOB Ltd through Standard Chartered Bank, Singapore using a number of cheques. Apart from this, money was also deposited in that account from various other bank accounts. The case statement added that Lim Siu Chang later said in his statement that Koko was the owner of the money deposited in this account. Besides, Fairhill Company was formed in Singapore only for Koko. Following the verdict of that case, the ACC brought Koko’s laundered money back home. The ACC had sent a Mutual Legal Assistance Request (MLAR) through the Attorney General to the Singapore government to return the money to Bangladesh. A copy of the judgment was also sent to him. After one year and five months of sending the MLAR, the money was returned by the order of a Singapore court.

Koko was sentenced to six years’ rigorous imprisonment by a Dhaka court on June 23, 2011 on charges of smuggling money abroad. He was also fined Tk 38.83 crore. Another accused in the case, Ismail Hossain Saymon, son of former shipping minister late Akbar Hossain, was also given the same sentence. Both the accused would have to pay the penalty amount equally. The court ordered the government to return the laundered money back home. As the accused were absconding, the sentence would be effective from the time they surrendered or were detained, the court said.

Case filed against Koko in the US

According to the FBI website on January 9, 2009, the US Department of Justice filed a seizure application in District Court on January 8. The penalty petition concerns Arafat Rahman Koko’s $3 million that he received as a bribe from Siemens and China Harbour Engineering Company so that the companies could get hold of two government projects in Bangladesh. And Koko transferred the bribed money to a bank in Singapore.

On December 15, 2008, Siemens and three of its subsidiaries pleaded guilty in a US court for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and agreed to pay a $1.6 billion fine. In particular, Siemens Bangladesh admitted that it paid $5,319,839 to various officials and individuals in Bangladesh as bribes. Since the bribes were paid in US dollars by Siemens and China Harbour Engineering, and the illicit funds were flowed through US financial institutions to Singapore banks, they were subject to US law. Under US money laundering laws, bribes to foreign nationals and other illegal payments through financial institutions are punishable under US law.

Arafat Rahman Koko was the only businessman in Bangladesh against whom the United States sued on its own and informed everyone about the case. According to the US Department of Justice, Koko misused government power to extort nearly $3 million. The lawsuit, filed in 2009, alleges that Koko took bribes from two foreign companies, Siemens AG of Germany and China Harbour Engineering of China, to manipulate her mother’s government. The work he mobilised for China Harbour was the construction of a new jetty at Chattogram port. Siemens, on the other hand, managed to build up a mobile telephone business.

Siemens AG and its Bangladeshi sister-organisation admitted to the US Department of Justice that they had paid a total of US $5,319,839 in bribes from May to August 2001. The money was first deposited in a US bank account. From there, it was transferred to Koko’s account in Singapore. Under US law, it is illegal to try to get someone a job at home or abroad by paying a bribe. There is international law as well on this. Since the money was laundered through US banks, it falls under US jurisdiction. That is why the FBI investigated the money laundering case.

Koko’s some other financial scandals

Koko had taken a bribe of around Tk 25 crore from some other sources, including multinational companies Warid, Siemens and China Harbour. BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia’s two sons — Tarique and Koko — looted Tk 200,000 crore from Hawa Bhaban. During the coalition government, no one could do business without paying commission to Khaleda’s sons.

When Khaleda was the prime minister, she, herself, whitened her black money. Her finance minister Saifur Rahman too whitened black money.

Tarique and Koko in Paradise Papers scandal

Paradise Papers, a set of confidential electronic documents, has revealed the huge amount of money invested in secret by the world’s influential political leaders and government-related people. Former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s two sons — Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman Koko — were included in the list published by Paradise Papers. In December 2017, Paradise Papers revealed that Khaleda’s son Tarique Rahman invested $2 million in Cayman Islands and Bermuda in 2004 and 2005. In addition, his friend Gias Uddin Al Mamun’s One Grap opened three companies in tax havens. Tarique’s late younger brother Arafat Rahman Koko invested around $1 million in various companies of Bermuda in 2005. After Koko’s death, the investment was transferred in the name of his wife Sharmila Rahman. That is, the amount of investment of the Zia family in the tax haven illegally is about Tk 500 crore. The money was invested in ApplyBuy and other illegal entities. He also committed massive tax evasion and invested US $15 million in Singapore in March 2002 in association with a law firm named Walkers. Applebee is a leading provider of offshore services to consumers. And this Applebee’s client was Tarique Rahman who signed a deal with the company with a London address and invested close to US $80 million in several tax havens during that period (1993-2006).

Koko’s wife accused in Dandy Dyeing loan default case

Koko, along with her brother Tarique Rahman, was accused in the Sonali Bank Dandy Dyeing company loan default case. Nazrul Islam, executive officer of Sonali Bank’s local office, filed the case with a finance loan court on October 2, 2013, for defaulting Tk 455,937,295. After Koko’s death, his mother Khaleda Zia, widow Sharmila Rahman and two daughters — Jahiya Rahman and Jafiya Rahman have been made defendants in the case. According to the petition, Dandy Dyeing Limited started its journey in 1992 with a capital of Tk 3 crore. On May 5, 1993, the defendants took a loan of Tk 13.14 crore from Sonali Bank. In 1996, the bank authorities again approved the loan on the request of Saeed Eskandar. On April 4, 2010, the amount of loan given to Dandy Dyeing stood at Tk 426.97 crore. Despite repeated requests, the accused did not repay.

More cases of Koko

Arafat Rahman Koko was convicted along with his mother in the Gatco corruption case. On March 1 2010, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) filed another case against Koko for his alleged income tax evasion. Koko was arrested along with his mother Khaleda Zia on September 3, 2007. After falling seriously ill in prison, he went to Bangkok for treatment after being released by an executive order of the controversial one-eleven caretaker government supported by the former army on July 17, 2008. After his conviction in a case, he did not return to the country and went to Malaysia from Bangkok. On January 24 2015, this corruption ring leader, mafia and murderer Zia-Khaleda’s son Koko died in Malaysia while mysteriously absconding. As a result, his name was removed from the ongoing cases. However, more laundered money of Koko will have to be brought back home and his corruption stories need to be exposed before the nation.

 

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