Vol. 5 Num 949 Tue. January 30, 2007  
Front Page

70pc Oriental Bank shares cancelled
BB asks the bank to replace those 'benami' shares owned by Obaidul Karim, his family

The Bangladesh Bank yesterday cancelled 69.87 percent of the Oriental Bank's shares after its probe found that Obaidul Karim bought 'benami' shares through his family members, nominee companies and individuals in breach of the banking company laws.

In a letter to the Oriental Bank's managing director, the central bank ordered the cancellation and forfeiture of the shares with immediate effect and asked the scam-tainted private bank to inform its current shareholders accordingly.

The 69.87 percent shares were listed under 13 names and companies that, the BB probe found, are either members of Obaidul's family, companies owned by them or foreign nominee companies.

The BB has asked the Oriental Bank authorities to issue fresh shares in its [central bank's] favour to replace the forfeited ones and send them to it forthwith.

It has also directed the beleaguered financial outfit to inform immediately the Registrar of the Joint Stock Companies and Firms and the Securities and Exchange Commission of the actions against the benami shares [the ones held by proxy].

The BB letter said the directive has been issued under section 45 of the Banking Companies Act, 1991 to advance the monetary and banking policy and also to ensure proper management of the Oriental Bank Limited. According to it, any person or company affected by this directive can raise the matter to the central bank. In that case, the BB would take further actions or impose other conditions in line with the banking companies laws.

Section 14A (1) of the Banking Companies Act, 1991, says shares would be forfeited and cancelled if more than 10 percent of those of a bank were found concentrated in any person, company or among the members of a family.

It also states that a person, company or members of a family shall not, individually, jointly or both, buy more than 10 percent of the shares of a bank.

The BB investigation found Obaidul's sons Rezaul and Salman Karim owned 26,250 and 50,560 shares that make up 5.06% and 9.74% of the total shares. His wife Arzuda Karim holds 2,500 shares or 0.48% and his dependent son-in-law Mehedi Hasan has 7,000 shares or 1.35% of the shares.

Syed Salim Akhtar, Niaz Ahmed and GR Chowdhury collectively hold 10.06 percent of the Oriental Bank shares. Theirs have been forfeited because BB in its investigation found that they had bought the shares as nominees for Obaidul.

According to the probe report, it is no coincidence that a certain "Mr Jaman" is the witness to all shares of Akhtar, Niaz, Chowdhury and Obaidul and he works for Obaidul in one of his companies, Kohinoor.

In addition, two of the companies, Prudential Securities Ltd and Orion Infusions who together own 8.74% shares of the Oriental Bank, are also controlled either by Obaidul or his family.

Obaidul himself is the managing director of Orion Infusions while Obaidul's wife Arzuda and daughter Zareen hold the majority shares in Prudential Securities.

Section 14A (2) states that a person or company already holding 10 percent of a bank's shares cannot hold any more through nominee companies.

The BB investigation gathered that all the four foreign companies shared one address in Hong Kong and had never contacted the BB for negotiations during the Oriental Bank's liquidity problems. They were said to be located at Unit 801, 8th Floor, Pacific House on 20 Queens Road, Central Hong Kong.

The report said the only person who approached the BB concerning the foreign companies was Obaidul himself and it indicates that he holds the shares in the name of those companies.

The four foreign companies are Founder International Investment Ltd with 45,000 shares or 8.6%, Onbright Corporation Ltd with 43, 769 or 8.43%, Eagleway Investment Ltd with 45,000 shares or 8.67%, and Sun Ascent Holding Ltd with 45,000 shares or 8.67% of the total Oriental Bank shares.

The central bank report noted that despite having no direct shares in the Oriental Bank, Obaidul represented the Oriental Bank in the negotiations with the BB. The talks followed an acute liquidity crisis confronting the private bank.

As such, it concluded that Obaidul holds benami shares in the Oriental Bank in excess of the statutory limit of 10%, contrary to section 14A of the Bank Companies Act.

Of the rest of the [Oriental Bank] shares, Islamic Development Bank, Saudi Arabia has 2.89%, Bangladesh Government 2.13%, IPCO Securities Ltd 5.35%, Oceania Securities Ltd 1.76%, Md Mujibur Rahman Milon 1.44%, Investment Corporation of Bangladesh 1.29%, ICB Unit Fund 2.16%, and others 13.60 percent.