TIB demands probe into AL MP Saifuzzaman Chowdhury's foreign assets

TIB demands probe into AL MP Saifuzzaman Chowdhury's foreign assets

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) said the explanation on wealth accumulation abroad and the concealing of this information in election affidavits by the former land minister Saifuzzaman Chowdhury is unreasonable, absurd and unwarranted.

In a press release issued on Sunday, the anti-graft watchdog urged the respective government agencies to properly investigate the process and amount of wealth accumulated abroad by the former land minister.

Earlier on Saturday, Saifuzzaman Chowdhury at a press conference in Dhaka admitted owning business and assets in London.

The TIB said in the press release that they presented an analysis report on the affidavits submitted by the electoral candidates of the 12th parliamentary election on 26 December last year. A certain minister holds offshore businesses worth Tk 23.12 billion, but that has no reflection in his poll affidavit. Several media later reported that the certain person was then land minister, and he himself admitted it at a press conference on Saturday.

Saifuzzaman Chowdhury admitted to owning assets and businesses in the United Kingdom, but vehemently denied the allegation of transferring funds from Bangladesh. 

Addressing a press briefing at the National Press Club in Dhaka, he claimed to have established the overseas holdings in compliance with all rules and regulations.

The former minister, currently a lawmaker from Chattogram-3, said his father used to conduct a business in the UK from 1967 and he inherited that in 1991, upon completion of his study in the United States. Later, he expanded the business.

He addressed the allegation of concealing wealth in the affidavit submitted to the election commission, saying the income tax form does not feature a dedicated section for offshore assets and he did not bother to disclose it. He maintains a separate income tax file abroad and there are bank loans against his overseas assets.

Citing this, TIB executive director Iftekharuzzaman termed the explanation of Saifuzzaman Chowdhury unreasonable and absurd. He said first the former land minister concealed information in affidavits. Disclosure of false or incomplete information in an affidavit is a criminal offence. A candidate is obliged to disclose details on his/her wealth accumulated at home and abroad. 

The former minister is trying to save himself by giving a lame excuse by saying the income tax form does not feature a dedicated section for offshore assets. This is totally absurd, he added.

Iftekharuzzaman thought the former land minister broke several laws by hiding the information of his wealth abroad. He said according to the Article 147 (C) of the constitution, eight types of constitutional office bearers, including ministers of the country, shall not hold any office, post or position of profit or emolument or take any part whatsoever in the management or conduct of any company, association or body having profit or gain as its object. That means the former land minister violated the constitution too after taking oath, which in no way could be accepted.

The TIB executive director stressed that the statement made by the former land minister claiming that he did not send money from the country to build wealth abroad and his proposal to constitute a committee to investigate it is absolutely absurd.

Violation of constitutional and legal provisions, including money laundering, is not a matter of any inquiry committee, rather the relevant institutions including Anti-Corruption Commission, National Board of Revenue, Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit, Criminal Investigation Department and other relevant organisations will ensure due accountability through fair investigation in due legal process, TIB said.

TIB has also claimed that the question raised by the former land minister about the purpose of publishing information about his acquisition of assets abroad before the elections is also baseless.
The organisation says that the purpose of publishing such information is to ensure transparency of the income and assets of the candidates participating in the elections and their accountability.