US begins probe into scam involving Zia’s sons

January 14th, 2009 - 12:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Jan 14 (IANS) A team of the US’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is probing the $200 million money laundering scandal pertaining to a Siemens telecom deal that implicates both sons of Bangladesh’s former prime minister Khaleda Zia, a media report said Wednesday.The erstwhile caretaker government had moved against Zia’s younger businessman son Arafat Rahman Koko last month after it received specific information from the Singapore government.

However, The Daily Star newspaper said Zia’s elder politician son Tarique Rahman too may have been involved along with 25 leading lights of Zia’s 2001-06 government.

Quoting unnamed sources from the attorney general’s office, the newspaper said the brothers and other officials of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) functioned from Hawa Bhavan, the party headquarters, dubbed as “alternative power centre” when Zia held office.

The two brothers and their associates are alleged to have gained monetarily from the German telecom multinational’s entry into the cellphone network in Bangladesh and the money was believed to have been stashed away abroad.

While other media reports have given long lists of those allegedly involved, The Daily Star named Tarique and his business partner, Giasuddin Al Mamun.

Both the brothers are receiving medical treatment abroad - Tarique in London and Koko in Singapore - after their health failed during their incarceration.

The US mission here confirmed the FBI team’s presence, but said they functioned “independently”.

The Sheikh Hasina Government that took office Jan 6 has assured all help to the US and the British authorities hoping to recover the laundered money.

New Attorney General Mahbubey Alam Tuesday told The Daily Star: “If mutual understandings are reached with the countries where the money is deposited, then the procedure for recovery can be determined.”

A team from Bangladesh could be sent to those countries to recover the money, but the decision rests on the government, he said.

Besides the Attorney General’s Office, the Anti-corruption Commission (ACC), Ministry of Finance, Bangladesh Bank, and the Ministry of Home Affairs are involved in the probe.

Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shafique Ahmed told The Daily Star that the government will act according to the advice of the attorney general’s Office in order to recover the laundered money.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) of the US makes it illegal to bribe foreign officials to get business contracts. The US government is willing to help the Bangladesh government recover the laundered money under that law.

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