Bank robbery over four years!

The Daily Star  October 17, 2019

Editorial

Bank robbery over four years!

No trace of BASIC Bank’s 4,500 crore taka

It is mystifying that nobody knows what happened to the Tk 4,500 crore that was swindled out of BASIC Bank between 2009 and 2013. The investigators of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) have not been able to find any clue as to what happened to this astronomical amount and has not submitted any charge sheet in the 56 cases filed in 2015 over its disappearance.

There is little justification for such a slow investigation. It is a tragedy that a bank that was once healthy had to fall from grace because of some unscrupulous individuals who transferred this huge amount of money in phases no doubt, in cahoots with the senior management of the bank. But what is even more disappointing is that the ACC has not been able to trace a single one of these illegal withdrawals.

It is also strange that the investigators have not found anything on the former chairman and the directors of the bank despite a central bank probe report that has detailed how loans were approved and then withdrawn in clear violation of bank rules. This was done through fake companies and suspicious accounts. Even the bank’s branches had expressed their concern regarding a number of loans yet they were all approved at the headquarters. Why did the bank’s board and credit committee approve of such loans without vetting them properly? According to the same probe report, the then management and board headed by the former chairman recruited a huge number of employees violating the rules and increased the number of branches to maintain them.

Even the High Court has expressed its disappointment at the snail’s pace of the ACC investigation. It is hard not to wonder whether this delay will serve to ultimately protect those officials who have been complicit in this horrendous scam that has practically robbed the bank of huge amounts of money, destroying its goodwill and reputation as a healthy, successful bank that it once was. The finance minister has said that the culprits involved in the scam during those four years will be brought to book. We urge the government to put pressure on the ACC to jumpstart this lethargic investigation and identify the individuals involved in this systematic bank robbery that has affected other banks too.

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