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S'pore returns laundered cash to Bangladesh

Publication Date : 27-02-2013

 

A Singapore court yesterday directed the authorities to send back to Bangladesh around 80 million Bangladeshi taka (US$0.9 million) that was laundered by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson's youngest son, Arafat Rahman Koko, and one of his associates about nine years back.

On November 22 last year, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) brought back from Singapore 2.04 million Singaporean dollars (US$29,635) laundered by Koko and Ismail Hossain Saimon, son of former BNP minister Akbar Hossain, following a similar order by the same court.

On his return from Singapore, Attorney General Mabubey Alam told The Daily Star last night that the laundered money was deposited with the account of Lim Siew Cheng, a Singaporean businessman, at Singapore Overseas Bank.

Singapore's Subordinate Court-16 asked the bank to send back the money to the ACC in Bangladesh, said Alam, who flew to Singapore on Monday to attend the hearing on the money laundering case.

Koko set up a firm, Fairhill Consulting Ltd, in Singapore with the help of Cheng, who admitted to the Singapore court that he had deposited the money with the bank.

The attorney general said the process of bringing back the laundered money started following the directives from a Dhaka court that sentenced Koko and Saimon to six years' imprisonment on June 23, 2011.

The Special Judge's Court-3 in Dhaka also fined them 380 million taka for laundering money to Singapore, and directed the government to bring back more than 200 million taka laundered by the two.

Following the Dhaka court order, Bangladesh attorney general's office requested its Singapore counterpart to take legal steps to this end.

In November last year when the ACC said it retrieved part of the sum laundered by Koko and his associate, the main opposition BNP termed it a ruling party ploy to taint the image of Zia family, and claimed the ACC didn't retrieve any money.

However, documents show that Singapore attorney general's office on November 22 last year deposited 2.04 million Singaporean dollars with the Stolen Asset Recovery Account that the ACC opened with Sonali Bank.

Such transaction between the two offices was possible because the two countries had signed a mutual legal assistance request on October 20, 2008.

ACC Deputy Director Abu Sayeed on March 17, 2009 sued Koko and Saimon for laundering more than 200 million taka.

According to the case statement, Koko and Saimon had received the money in bribe from telecom giant Siemens and China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd to help them win contracts. The two later siphoned off the money to Singapore.

The ACC pinpointed Koko's dealings with the Chinese engineering firm for constructing the New Mooring Container Terminal and with Siemens for supplying and setting up equipment for mobile phone company Teletalk.

In a verdict on the money laundering case on January 2, 2011, the Singapore court fined local businessman Cheng for keeping Koko's money in his account.

Cheng was fined US$900,677 for having Koko's US$317,000 transferred to his account and keeping it on Koko's advice, reported The Straits Times.

According to other media reports, the US authorities on January 8, 2009, initiated a move in a District of Columbia court to recover funds worth US$3 million allegedly obtained by Koko from German company Siemens and kept in a Singapore-based bank.

On December 15, 2008 in a settlement with the US Department of Justice, Siemens agreed to pay US$1.6 billion in fine to various authorities as penalties for its "corruption".

The US authorities alleged that former Siemens Telecommunication Group had made payments totalling US$813.9 million to win various telecom projects in Argentina, Bangladesh, and Venezuela.

Koko left the country for Bangkok for treatment on July 19, 2008 after getting out of jail on parole. He was arrested in September 2007 along with his mother from their cantonment residence. His associate Saimon is on the run.

 

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