Vol. 5 Num 609 Tue. February 14, 2006  
Front Page

Feuding SQ Chy family wanders in legal maze
Cousins battle over business interests

A multilateral family feud has given rise to a bitter legal battle among cousins and has resulted in a split in the joint family of Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, parliamentary affairs adviser to the prime minister.

Salauddin's cousins Salman F Rahman and Sohel F Rahman filed a case against three directors of the QC Container Line Ltd, who are also Salauddin's brothers.

Significantly, Salauddin's name is not among the accused though he is a member of the board of directors.

It was learnt that Salauddin's relationship with his three brothers has deteriorated to such an extent that he did not even invite them to the wedding of his eldest daughter Farzin Quader Chowdhury.

On the last Eid-ul-Azha, Salauddin said his Eid prayers and sacrificed animals separately from his brothers, making an exception to the long-held family tradition of doing those together with his brothers.

In a latest development in the family feud, Salauddin filed a lawsuit against the general manager of the finance department of the company, Syed Abrar Hossain, on Sunday accusing him of misappropriating TK 95 crore of the company's money. The court issued a warrant for Abrar's arrest following the filing of the case.

Since their father Fazlul Quader Chowdhury had passed away, Salauddin, the eldest among the siblings, had been looking after the family and his three brothers had been obedient to him until the current row parted them a few months back.

Family sources close to the younger three brothers said it has become almost impossible to keep the joint family intact and they now want their father's property divided among them.

Late Fazlul Quader Chowdhury was a speaker of the erstwhile East Pakistan Assembly and president of the Pakistan Muslim League. He was also an acting-president of Pakistan for a few days. He left behind a huge amount of property including land and houses in Raujan and Rangunia, a house in Chittagong city named Goodhill, and another house in Dhanmondi, Dhaka.

A number of reasons soured the relationship between Salauddin and his younger brothers.

In 2005, Salauddin wanted to involve his son Fazlul Quader Chowdhury Faiyyaz with the QC Container Line after his (the son's) return from abroad where he had been studying. But Salauddin's three brothers objected to the idea creating the first rift among them.

Following the incident Salauddin's brothers tried to take loans from different banks and failed, as the banks pointed out that Salman F Rahman and Sohel F Rahman, two directors of the company, were loan defaulters. Being repeatedly refused loans by the banks the three brothers then requested Salauddin to get the Rahman brothers out of the company, which he readily rejected.

A source close to Salauddin's three brothers said Salauddin told his brothers that Salman was very close to him and he would rather relinquish his own directorship in the company than to ask them to leave.

After learning about the three brothers' reservation about their being in the company, Salman and Sohel withdrew themselves from QC and demanded their dues. While Salauddin was ready to comply his three brothers were not. Failing to convince them Salauddin resigned from the post of the managing director in October 2005, and dissociated himself from all sorts of activities related to the company.

There was another trouble brewing as far as the relationships among the siblings are concerned. It has been quite some time that Salauddin's three brothers and two sisters have been pressing for their father's wealth and property to be divided among them.

Salauddin has been kind of leading the joint family single-handedly, taking all the decisions all by himself without consulting his brothers, their wives or his sisters. While the younger brothers and sisters have lived with the arrangement for a long time and have not been protesting, apparently they have been growing discontented.

In 2001, Gias Quader Chowdhury the second among the six siblings lost the last election in Chittagong-6 constituency. A source close to him said Gias strongly believes that Salauddin's objectionable remarks against the BNP leadership cost him the seat.

Gias is now lobbying for getting nominations to compete in Chittagong-7 constituency from where his elder brother Salauddin won the last election. This is also exacerbating the bitterness among the brothers. Meanwhile, Salauddin visited Chittagong-4 constituency quite a few times and has been taking stock of the development work in the area. It is being said that he may fight the next elections in this constituency. The incumbent is Rafiqul Anwar MP of Awami League who is also known as Sona Rafiq.

A source in the income tax department said 75 percent share of the company which had been earlier divided among the four brothers equally, was re-divided late last year, giving Salauddin less than one-third of each of his three brothers' share.

Salauddin and his brothers came to shipping business following their father's footsteps. They inherited the shipping company called QC Shipping Ltd, which had been operating since the Pakistan period. The company with its present name QC Container Line Ltd was established in 1995. Initially it had six directors -- Salauddin Quader Chowdhury MP, Gias Quader Chowdhury, a former MP, Saifuddin Quader Chowdhury, Jamaluddin Quader Chowdhury, the present managing director of the company, and their cousins Sohel F Rahman, chairman of Beximco Holdings, and Salman F Rahman, vice-chairman of Beximco Holdings.

Among them the first four directors are brothers who had 75 percent share while Salman and Sohel owned 25 percent of the company.

In 2004 after Salman and Sohel were declared loan defaulters by several banks, they relinquished their posts in the company.

Beximco Holdings Chairman Sohel F Rahman, and Vice-chairman Salman F Rahman filed a case with the High Court on December 14 accusing QC Container Ltd of misappropriating money and smuggling it out of the country.

The lawsuit alleged that QC Container Ltd had embezzled Tk 95.5 crore by charging excess fares on four ships and smuggled the money out of the country. The sum was embezzled in three years, the lawsuit said. It also alleged that the company had evaded a huge sum of tax and violated the Foreign Currency Law 1947 by smuggling money out of the country.

The three brothers of Salauddin said Salman and Sohel provided wrong information in the lawsuit. They said Sohel F Rahman was the chairman of the company and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury was the MD when the said irregularities supposedly took place.

Besides, they pointed out that, NJ Abedin and Company, which audited the company has also been auditing Beximco Holdings. The audit was approved in an annual general meeting of the board of directors, they claimed.

Following Beximco's lawsuit against the directors of QC Container Line Ltd, Giasuddin Chowdhury, one of the defendants, wrote a letter to Rafique-ul Huq, the Beximco appointed lawyer, on December 26 requesting him to withdraw himself from the case.

The letter pointed out that Rafique-ul Huq had been hired by QC Container Line Ltd on many occasions and therefore is privy to important confidential information about the company.

Besides, Rafique-ul Huq's son Faheemul Huq of Huq and Company had been QC's lawyer till his resignation on September 1, 2005.

The letter also mentioned that by litigating against QC, Rafique-ul Huq has been guilty of violating the Canons of Professional Conduct and Etiquette for Advocates as published by the Bangladesh Bar Council.

Under the circumstances, Rafique-ul Huq should withdraw himself from the case, the letter said.

Rafique-ul Huq and Faheemul Huq are representing Beximco in the lawsuit, and Dr Kamal Hossain, Justice TH Khan, Dr M Zahir and Azmamul Hossain are separately representing the three directors of QC Container Line Ltd.