Corruption of government official Nazrul Islam and Anwara Begum unveiled

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Bangladesh, Anti-Corruption Commission

In a city marked by the hustle and bustle of commerce and trade, the story of Nazrul Islam and Anwara Begum stands out as a glaring example of unchecked corruption and the illicit accumulation of wealth. This saga, which recently culminated in the submission of a chargesheet by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) of Bangladesh, highlights the pervasive nature of corruption within the country’s land administration system.

Nazrul Islam, a former chairman at the Chittagong District Land Acquisition Office, joined public service in 1994 with a meager monthly salary of BDT 1,800. By the time he was caught by the ACC in November 2019, his official earnings had only amounted to BDT 2.92 million. According to ACC calculations, Nazrul should have had no more than BDT 1.41 million in savings after accounting for family and educational expenses. Yet, the wealth attributed to him and his wife, Anwara Begum, paints a drastically different picture.

The couple owns two luxurious flats in the elite GEC and Nizam Road areas of Chittagong city, valued at BDT 20 million. Anwara Begum also owns a private car worth BDT 2.2 million. Additionally, they possess three shops in a prominent shopping mall in Chittagong. The combined value of these properties far exceeds the legitimate earnings of a fourth-class public employee.

The investigation into Nazrul’s financial affairs began in earnest in November 2019, when he was apprehended along with Taslim Uddin, an office assistant from the Deputy Commissioner’s office. They were caught at a shop owned by Anwara Begum in the Chittagong Shopping Complex, in possession of a check worth approximately BDT 9.1 million and BDT 750,000 in cash. This incident triggered an in-depth probe by the ACC, eventually revealing a staggering amount of illegal wealth amassed through bribery and corruption.

According to the chargesheet submitted to the Chittagong court, Nazrul and Anwara acquired illegal wealth amounting to BDT 110.21 million. The investigation extended beyond the couple, implicating seven others, including Nazrul’s sister-in-law Kohinoor Akhtar, shop employee Shahadat Hossain, and relatives Jamal Uddin, Samsun Nahar Chowdhury, and Shamsul Alam. All are accused of aiding and abetting the couple in laundering and concealing their ill-gotten gains.

Among the accused, Kohinoor Akhtar, a housewife, has BDT 20.25 million in her bank account. Shahadat Hossain, ostensibly a shop employee, has BDT 30.20 million. Shamsul Alam, another relative, claims to run a business named M/s Quality Products, but could not produce any supporting documentation. His account holds BDT 40.90 million. Samsun Nahar’s account has BDT 30 million, and Jamal Uddin’s BDT 7.12 million. These figures starkly contrast with their declared professions and lifestyle, raising serious questions about the sources of these funds.

The modus operandi, as described by the ACC, involved Nazrul leveraging his position at the Land Acquisition Office to solicit hefty bribes from individuals seeking compensation for land acquired for government projects. Although transferred to Fatikchari Upazila Parishad in 2017 due to charges of irregularities and corruption, Nazrul continued to exert significant influence over the Chittagong LA branch. This enabled him to demand large commissions from landowners, thereby amassing substantial wealth.

Nazrul’s elder son recently completed his MBA in London, and his younger son is pursuing the same degree at a private university in Chittagong. The extravagant education expenses of his children further underscore the discrepancy between Nazrul’s official income and his actual expenditures.

The ACC’s chargesheet meticulously details the couple’s assets: two flats in the GEC and Nizam Road areas, a three-storied house in Hathazari village valued at BDT 8.25 million, and three shops in the Chittagong Shopping Complex. The properties in the shopping complex alone are worth millions, with one shop on the second floor valued at BDT 8.5 million, another at BDT 650,000, and a third on the first floor at BDT 350,000. The private car, although registered in Anwara’s name, is valued at BDT 2.2 million.

The ACC’s investigation has revealed that Nazrul funneled substantial amounts of money into the bank accounts of his relatives, effectively using them as conduits to launder his illicit earnings. Kohinoor Akhtar and Samsun Nahar, both housewives, were found with millions in their accounts, without any legitimate source of income. The others, while claiming to be businessmen, failed to provide any credible evidence of their enterprises.

The chargesheet highlights that Nazrul and Anwara, initially the primary suspects, were part of a broader network of individuals complicit in their corrupt activities. The five additional accused played pivotal roles in facilitating the transfer, conversion, and concealment of the illegal funds. Shamsul Alam, for instance, despite claiming to run a business, could not substantiate his claims, leading investigators to conclude that he was a key figure in the money laundering scheme.

The victims of Nazrul’s corruption describe a pattern of extortion and coercion. They recount how he demanded exorbitant commissions for processing land compensation claims, exploiting his position to enrich himself at their expense. Despite his transfer to Fatikchari, his control over the Chittagong LA branch allowed him to continue his corrupt practices unabated.

The ACC has applied to the court for the issuance of arrest warrants against the accused individuals, with Nazrul currently out on bail. The chargesheet submitted on Monday marks a significant step in holding the perpetrators accountable and recovering the illicit wealth amassed through years of corruption.

This case serves as a stark reminder of the deep-rooted corruption that can pervade public institutions and the challenges faced by regulatory bodies in uprooting it. As the legal proceedings unfold, the spotlight remains on ensuring that justice is served and that the ill-gotten wealth is returned to the public coffers. The story of Nazrul Islam and Anwara Begum is not just a tale of corruption but a call to action for greater transparency and accountability within the public sector.

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