50 given 72 hours to submit wealth report |
All property to be attached if they fail to appear in person before ACC; 370 names in the pipeline; separate lawyers' panel to handle these cases fast; law mulled to bar successors from possessing ill
Julfikar Ali Manik
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) yesterday published a list of 50 persons, including three dozen former ministers and lawmakers, and top politicians and businessmen, in the first phase of publishing names of 420 top corrupt suspects.
The 50 were asked to appear before four assigned ACC directors and submit their wealth statements at the ACC office in Segunbagicha within 72 hours of receiving the notification.
If they fail, their movable and immovable properties will be attached for a temporary period.
The list has the highest number of 26 leaders from the BNP, 18 from the Awami League (AL), one each from Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ), and two former secretaries and two businessmen.
Of the 50 people, eight former ministers and 13 lawmakers are from BNP and four former ministers and 10 lawmakers are from the Awami League. Already 22 of the 50 people have been arrested.
The government was likely to begin serving the notices last night in the first ever initiative to make public the names of "corrupt" influential politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen and bring them to book.
Although the government officially does not describe the 50 as "corrupt", the ACC is sure that these people hoarded unauthorised wealth, which will be confiscated after the court disposes the cases.
"The primary conclusion of enquiry says these people have acquired huge property. Legal incomes of these people do not match their wealth," ACC Secretary Mohammad Delwar Hossain told reporters after disclosing the names of the 50 persons.
"More names will be disclosed soon," he said.
Sources also confirmed that names of another 370 corrupt suspects will be disclosed soon in phases.
The government has also decided not to engage government law officers in the trial of the corruption cases against these bigwigs in lower court, fearing they may not play the expected role as almost all of them were appointed on political consideration by the BNP-led coalition government. A panel of lawyers will be recruited for the task.
The list had been prepared through a secret investigation initiated by the anti-graft body and different government intelligence agencies with the help of Bangladesh Bank, National Board of Revenue (NBR) and other government offices that started late January.
POLITICIANS ON THE LIST
The former ministers and lawmakers of the BNP-led four-party coalition government and top BNP leaders on the list include former communications minister Nazmul Huda, former environment minister Tariqul Islam, former housing and public works minister Mirza Abbas, former prime minister Khaleda Zia's parliamentary affairs adviser Salauddin Quader Choudhury, and Khaleda's political secretaries Mosaddak Ali Falu and Harris Chowdhury.
There are also alleged militant patron Ruhul Quddus Talukder Dulu and Mufti Shahidul Islam, former Jamaat-e-Islami MP Shahjahan Chowdhury, Giasuddin Al Mamun's brother Hafiz Ibrahim, and former finance minister Saifur's Rahman's son Naser Rahman.
The leaders and former ministers of the AL include former home minister Mohammad Nasim, former chief whip Abul Hasnat Abdullah, AL Adviser Salman F Rahman, and former bureaucrat and state minister for planning Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir.
Former secretary ANH Akhter Hossain, former member of National Board of Revenue Zahurul Haque, and businessman Nurul Islam Babul are also on the list.
The home ministry published a gazette notification of amended rules on February 13 under the Emergency Power Ordinance, saying the properties of the persons, who have been asked to submit their wealth information, will be confiscated if they do not submit their wealth report in person within 72 hours.
The ACC will despatch the notices to their latest available addresses. If no one is found at those addresses, the notices will be hung there.
The 22 arrested persons who have been kept in jails will be served with the notices at the prisons and will be allowed to appoint representatives for submitting their statements.
Asked if the others on the list will be arrested, the ACC secretary said, "Nowhere in the notice it has been mentioned that they will be arrested, and there is no question of arresting them."
But sources said the joint forces during their crackdown on corrupt bigwigs searched for them.
The ACC will lodge FIRs (first information report) against those, who will fail to provide reasonable explanations, to initiate their trial, said the ACC secretary.
The government will appoint administrator to keep running the trading firms or factories of those whose properties will be attached.
According to the notice served as per the rules and the ACC Act, the 50 will have to submit a detailed statement of all movable and immovable properties under their ownership or possession, or under their family members or anyone else on behalf of them within 72 hours from receiving the notification.
The government is also empowered to sell the confiscated properties through open auctions with the court's approval and will submit the earned money to the public exchequer.
Four ACC directors--Tankin Haque Siddique, Abdul Wadood, Jahanara Parvin and Nasrin Ara Surat Amin--will receive the statements at the ACC office.
After the 72-hour time expires, the ACC will scrutinise the statements to find whether they have submitted any false information.
MORE NAMES TO BE DISCLOSED
Names of others on the list of suspected corrupt people will be disclosed in phases soon.
"Disclosing names of 50 today is just the beginning, and these 50 cannot be termed 'top most corrupt people'. The person whose name comes last in the list may also be the top among them," said ACC Secretary Delwar Hossain.
Although he declined to specify the number of more names to be disclosed, sources said there are 420 names on the list, which may increase.
Asked why former prime minister Khaleda Zia's son Tarique Rahman's name was not on the list despite the fact that he is facing several allegations of corruption, he replied: "We're disclosing the names of those whose names have come up in the primary inquiry."
When asked whether those who conducted inquiry failed to find any evidence of corruption against Tarique, he said names of several, whose names were linked with corruption on different occasions, did not appear in the list. "More names will come out in the future," he added.
Talking about the cases of those who have been learnt to be under arrest but the government has not officially disclosed the matter, the ACC secretary said, "I don't have any such information. We'll serve notice according to the rules."
According to the ACC Act, the three-member commission will have to take decisions about enquiries and investigations in their meetings. But, following the resignation of ACC chairmen and two commissioners the posts in the ACC are still vacant. Asked how the ACC produced such a list, Delwar said they are the officials of the ACC who had done the job and he hoped the commissioners would endorse it after their appointment.
APPOINTMENT OF LAW PANEL
The advisory council committee on anti-corruption yesterday decided to recruit a high-profile panel of lawyers to deal the corruption cases in the lower court, sources said. The law ministry will appoint the panel consulting the ACC.
"The public prosecutors and government pleaders working in the existing traditional set up in the lower court will not be able to perform up to the expectation," said one source.
Since they were appointed during the previous government regime and many of them are incompetent, they may become biased towards the leaders of the previous government, he added.
The government already has information that the bigwigs will appoint top lawyers and will spend huge amount of money to fight for them.
"To contest them properly, the government needs some competent and high-profile lawyer," the source added.
To monitor progress of the cases, the government will form a monitoring cell.
The government will bring some changes to the ACC Act to increase the number of offences in the schedule.
According to the act, property of only the accused can be confiscated. The participants of the advisory council committee discussed bringing changes to the ACC Act to enable the confiscation of illegal wealth of a person from his inheritors in case he or she dies.
Talking to reporters emerging out of yesterday's meeting of the advisory committee, Adviser Mainul Hosein said, "If they do not provide information, their property will be attached, they'll be tried in absentia and be punished."
List of 50|
On the list are former Home Minister Mohammad Nasim (AL), former Communications Minister Barrister Nazmul Huda (BNP), former adviser to the prime minister Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury (BNP), former Works