Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday retracted his earlier remark saying he was wrong to suggest bail for the owners of Hall-Mark Group which he thought would help Sonali Bank recover the money they had stolen.
“It was not right to say that the managing director would be reinstated, if necessary. Putting the MD back will not work,” said Muhith at a pre-budget view exchange with the editors of different media at the secretariat in the capital.
On Wednesday, Muhith had created uproars by saying that if needed, steps would have to be taken to bail the managing director [Tanvir Mahmud] out of jail, so that he could revive his business and start paying the Sonali Bank loan.
His suggestion came following a government move, in which the finance ministry had asked Sonali Bank to prepare a comprehensive report in this regard.
Former officials of the central bank criticised the move. They said it would set a bad precedence as Tanvir had taken the money through fraudulent means and it was not a real loan.
The Hall-Mark Group, which is said to employ 40,000 workers, remained in the limelight almost for a year since a central bank investigation found that the group had misappropriated Tk 2,600 crore from the Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch of state-owned Sonali Bank using forged documents.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is now investigating the case, while the owners of Hall-Mark Group are behind bars.
“The Hall-Mark Group made an appeal to the prime minister saying that the families of 40,000 workers had been living miserably after the closure of the group. Besides, its wealth worth Tk 5,600 crore has remained idle,” said the finance minister.
“It is true that a lot of money has been stolen but a lot of money has also been invested which might generate some benefit. Under the circumstance, Sonali Bank was asked to send a proposal,” he said, adding that everything would depend on the bank’s report.
He also said while a number of people had been arrested in connection with the biggest ever financial scandal in the country, there were many other high-ups against whom the ACC had remained soft.
“I have alarmed the ACC that it was not taking strong steps against various high-ups involved in the scam,” Muhith said, adding that it was not only Hall-Mark, but there were other parties that favoured the group.
He said, “The general manager-level officials have been put into jail, but responsible persons above the position should also face the music.”
The finance minister, however, did not give any details about the other parties.
He said it is difficult to try financial crimes. “But this is the first time that we have in hand a trial process.”
Later in a statement, the finance ministry further cleared the government’s stance on the Hall-Mark scam, rejecting media claims that the ministry was becoming flexible about the group.
“The government has no intention to protect anybody involved with the Hall-Mark scam,” read the statement.
Source: The Daily Star