Investigation officials of the Anti-Corruption Commission are responsible for wrongly implicating in graft cases jute mill worker Jaha Alam, who had to languish in jail for three years, says an ACC probe report.
“It seems that the mistake of identifying Jaha Alam as Abu Salek happened because of the investigation officials,” said the report prepared by ACC Director (legal wing) Abul Hasnat Md Abdul Wadud.
Describing the extent of the officials’ carelessness, the report said 12 ACC officials investigated the cases, but none of them had visited the house of the “accused”, Jaha Alam.
The report said some bank officials and introducers of Salek’s bank accounts misled the investigation officials.
“But it is the duty of the investigation officials to unearth the truth and present it before the court. There is no scope for conferring this duty to the bank officials or someone else.”
“During my investigation, I visited Jaha Alam’s house. His house is so dilapidated that anyone would doubt as to how the house of a person involved in Tk 18 crore misappropriation could be in such dismal state?”
Yesterday, Khurshid Alam Khan, counsel for the ACC, submitted the report to the High Court, praying for a date for hearing on the report.
Upon his plea, the HC bench of Justice FRM Nazmul Ahasan and KM Kamrul Kader fixed July 16 for hearing.
In 2012, the ACC filed 33 cases against a number of individuals over misappropriation of Tk 18.5 crore from Sonali Bank. In 26 of the cases, one Abu Salek, a businessman, was accused. But the ACC identified Jaha Alam as Salek. He was arrested in 2016 and sent to jail.
When the issue of wrongly implicating Jaha Alam surfaced in the media, the HC intervened and ordered his release. He was released from Kashimpur Central Jail 2 in Gazipur on February 4 this year.
The ACC then assigned Wadud to enquire into the matter.
The 22-page probe report not only describes how Jaha Alam was wrongly identified but also detailed the negligence, flaws and violation of rules by the ACC enquiry officer, 12 investigation officers and supervising bosses.
On September 14, 2010, general manager of a local office of Sonali Bank filed a case with Motijheel Police station, accusing Salek of misappropriating money. The case was later sent to the ACC for further investigation.
The ACC assigned the then deputy director Abdullah Al Zahid to run enquiry.
Zahid, now a director, took 14 months to complete the enquiry.
“What did he get in his 14-month-long enquiry? He did not even pay any field visits which in no way was right,” read the report, adding that the official submitted his enquiry report on the basis of findings of two investigation reports of Bangladesh Bank and Sonali bank.
“Had he paid field visits, he could’ve found out the address of Abu Salek,” the report said.
In the enquiry report, there was no mention of any person by the name Jaha Alam, it added.
Zahid made another mistake of filing 33 separate cases on a single matter in violation of the rules, which created complexities.
After the filing of 33 cases, ACC assigned 12 investigation officers to probe those.
Wadud found that the top officials, who were supposed to supervise Zahid’s enquiry, were careless.
“Had they been careful, the mistakes would have surfaced at the enquiry level.”
The enquiry officer had several discussions with the then director general (special enquiry and investigation), who asked the officer to come up with a full report, Wadud mentioned.
The enquiry officer, supervisor or the director general concerned cannot avoid the liability of the mistake, he added.
FLAWS OCCURRED DURING PROBE
During the investigation, IOs could have collected photos of all the accused from bank documents and publish those through advertisements in newspapers or TV channels, seeking people’s help for their arrest.
The IOs did not interrogate Jaha Alam in front of the other accused in the cases. They did not even take into consideration Jaha Alam’s educational qualification, or economic and social condition, the report said.
They also did not try to find out the interest of Abu Salek’s introducers at different banks. They did not bring the bank officials to book for providing extra cheque books and aiding in bank transaction.
“More than Tk 18 crore was misappropriated but the investigation officers did not collect enough information about where the money went… It shows incompetency of the investigation officers,” it says.
The IOs also did not go for field visits, rather they put pressure on bank officials to find out Salek. The bank officials introduced Jaha Alam as Salek to the ACC.
“The IOs were supposed to do the work [of finding out Salek]. Instead, bank officials did the job.”
The bank officials showed Jaha Alam as Abu Salek to save themselves from being accused in the cases, it said.
“The IOs did not take into consideration the possibility that the bank officials can identify anyone as Salek to save themselves,” the report said.
Though many bank officials were involved in it and misused power but none of them were made accused in the cases.
Two persons — Nazrul Islam Sagar and Saiful Haque — testified under section 164 to the police before the case transferred to the ACC. But the IOs did not take any initiative to take their testimony again.
On top of that, 11 of the 12 IOs were apprentice officers in August 2011 when they were assigned to probe the complex matter.
“Therefore, the mistakes took place because of inexperience and a lack of skill and in want of supervision,” the report reads.
In its recommendation, the ACC director (legal) suggested forming a supervising panel with experienced officers to prevent such occurrence in future and not to engage supervising officers in any investigation or enquiry.
“Trail the money” is an important tool in graft cases to find out the beneficiaries of corruption.
“If the tool — trail the money — was followed, an innocent person like Jaha Alam would not have been harassed.” To make this tool effective, the ACC needs to establish a Forensic Accounts Department, added the report.