Zia’s son figures in Siemens bribery scandal

December 23rd, 2008 - 12:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Dec 23 (IANS) In a scandal that could be embarrassing in the run-up to the parliamentary polls, former Bangladesh prime minister Khaleda Zia’s son has been accused of facilitating the entry of telecom giant Siemens in the country’s mobile phone network for monetary gains.As the international media ran reports about how the corporate giant and its subsidiaries bribed government officials to win contracts in countries across the world, Zia’s younger son Arafat Rahman Koko’s name came up in the Bangladesh part.

According to sources, the former prime minister’s son received at least $180,000 as a bribe in September 2005 for helping Siemens Bangladesh win the contract to set up a mobile network for state-run operator TeleTalk.

Koko, detained and facing trial in three cases and now convalescing in a hospital in Singapore where “huge sums of money” were deposited in his account, is also allegedly involved in a money laundering racket.

Chief of the Anti Corruption Commission Lt Gen (retd) Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury, a former army chief, reaffirmed that the allegation against Zia’s businessman-son of laundering about 120 million takas ($180,000 approx) was “authentic, legally recognised and confirmed by the Singapore Attorney General’s Office”.

Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said the charge was “motivated”.

Rejecting it, Chowdhury said the ACC published the information upon confirmation by legal experts about taking the matter to the court.

“We didn’t publish the allegation until we were sure it was authentic. We think our information is authentic and legally recognised,” The Daily Star quoted him as saying Tuesday.

The newspaper, quoting ACC sources, said that a foreign national volunteered the information to the ACC in a five-page statement.

He had agreed to aid the ACC’s probe on condition that his identity would be kept secret and safety ensured.

Introducing himself as “a chartered secretary…married with two children”, he also said he would not come to Bangladesh to testify against anyone for fear of reprisal.

On this understanding, the ACC sent an official to Singapore to explore the official procedures there to investigate graft.

In the following days, investigators at home and abroad gathered that China Harbour Engineering, a container handling firm, transferred huge sums to Koko’s account with the Singapore branch of French bank Credit Industrial et Commercial.

They also found out about ZASZ Trading and Consulting Pvt Ltd, the firm Koko owns in Singapore jointly with a Singapore national.

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