US, Britain seek Dhaka’s help to recover $200 mn in kickbacks

January 12th, 2009 - 1:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Jan 12 (IANS) The US and Britain have sought Bangladesh’s assistance in their bid to recover $200 million allegedly paid in kickbacks to former prime minister Khaleda Zia’s son Arafat Rahman Koko and some ministers. A delegation comprising the US Justice Department’s deputy chief Linda M. Samuel, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent Deborah Heprevotte and UK Institute of Management consultant Ferdous Ahmed made the request for help at a meeting with Law Minister Shafique Ahmed.

They handed him a list of the people suspected of receiving the money during the four-party alliance rule of Zia during 2001-06.

Shafique Ahmed Sunday night told The Daily Star newspaper: “We have assured the delegation of help in getting back the money.”

The scam is a major blow to Zia and her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) that lost last month’s election badly and are in the opposition.

Investigations had begun under the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) before the election and the probe body went public Dec 18, on the eve of the Dec 29 poll, after it claimed to receive specific information from Singapore.

Koko is Zia’s younger son who is convalescing in a Singapore hospital after being in a jail here for several months.

The BNP continues to deny the charges, calling them “politically motivated”.

In a renewed denial even as the American and British officials arrived here for consultations, BNP’s secretary general Khandaker Delwar Hossain said Koko was not involved in the deal and that his name had been misused by the wrongdoers.

“We have seen reports in newspapers naming Koko in the Siemens bribes case. But, according to the available documents of the case, the plaintiff did not say that Koko had taken bribes,” Hossain told media Sunday.

His statement came after his meeting with Zia, the country’s two-term prime minister and Koko’s lawyers, T.H. Khan and Rafiqul Islam Mia, New Age newspaper said Monday.

“If the allegation made in the case is true, they started paying (the kickbacks) in May 2001, when BNP was not in power,” Delwar said.

However, Shafique Ahmed, the new law minister in the Hasina Government, said that the money is currently deposited in banks across 20 countries including Singapore, United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates.

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