Can Sheikh Hasina succeed in her war against corruption?

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National Board of Revenue, NBR, Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina

In a bold move against rampant corruption, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has declared an uncompromising war on graft. Responding to recent revelations of extensive corruption and money laundering involving high-ranking officials, Hasina has vowed that no one, regardless of their status or connections, will be spared. This declaration marks a significant escalation in the government’s ongoing efforts to root out corruption and restore integrity within the nation.

Earlier, media reports indicated that following the exposure of information detailing rampant corruption and the looting of public wealth, known as kleptocracy, the US Department of Treasury is going to impose sanctions on Matiur Rahman, a controversial official of the National Board of Revenue (NBR). Rahman was withdrawn from his position on allegations of massive corruption and money laundering. Washington is also expected to impose sanctions on Matiur’s two wives, two sons, and daughter.

According to the state news agency BSS, Matiur Rahman’s first wife, Laila Kaniz Lucky, who is the chairman of Raipura Upazila Parishad in Narsingdi district, filed a petition seeking the withdrawal of a travel ban imposed on her. It is suspected that she might flee the country. On June 30, 2024, Laila appeared before the court of Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge seeking the withdrawal of the ban. The court later set July 28 for a hearing on the matter.

On June 24, 2024, Dhaka Metropolitan Senior Judge Mohammad As-Shams Jaglul Hossain issued the travel ban in response to a petition from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

By visiting Matiur Rahman’s Facebook account, one can get a glimpse of how this notoriously corrupt individual was hiding his true face behind the mask of an ardent supporter of the ruling Awami League. Most importantly, Matiur Rahman was extremely desperate in his ruthless corruption spree due to his connections with several extremely influential figures.

According to former NBR chief Badiur Rahman, during the rule of the BNP-Jamaat Islamist government, Matiur had direct access to the bedroom of the then Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman. Another source mentioned that Matiur also maintained connections with Hawa Bhaban thugs, including Tarique Rahman and his cronies. At that time, he openly proclaimed himself an “ideological soldier” of military dictator Ziaur Rahman.

Due to such connections, Matiur Rahman did not feel the necessity of taking permission from the concerned authorities for buying tangible assets, including homes and cars. He and his family members also made massive investments in the stock market. Furthermore, there are multiple business and industrial establishments in the names of Matiur and his wives, sons, and daughter, which is a clear violation of the rules of conduct.

Dhaka’s leading vernacular daily, Prothom Alo, reported that it is not only Matiur Rahman; most government officials do not take any permission from the National Board of Revenue (NBR) and Internal Resources Division (IRD) of the finance ministry before buying land, homes, flats, and other assets. Furthermore, hundreds of government officials in various positions have smuggled billions of dollars to several countries, including the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, Dubai, Malaysia, and European Union nations.

Since the exposure of massive corruption, Matiur Rahman has gone into hiding. It is reported that he fled the country a few days ago, while his second wife Shammi Akther Shibly and younger son Mushfequr Rahman Ifat have also fled the country. His elder son Taufikur Rahman Arnab and daughter Farzana Rahman Ipsita are living in the United States and Canada.

Matiur has amassed wealth worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and he, along with members of his family, has smuggled a significant amount of cash to several countries, including Dubai, Malaysia, Canada, and the United States.

Matiur’s daughter Farzana Rahman Ipsita leads an expensive life in Canada, where she has bought a luxurious house and uses multiple vehicles. She has also invested in several business projects. Similarly, Matiur’s son Taufikur Rahman Arnab has invested his ill-gotten gains in properties and businesses in the United States.

It is further learned that Matiur Rahman and his family members have purchased citizenship by spending over US$1.2 million in a Caribbean island nation. They have also invested in the “Second Home” or “Golden Visa” schemes in Dubai and Malaysia. According to several credible sources, dozens of government officials and politicians have also purchased citizenships in Caribbean island nations and invested in similar schemes in countries such as Malta, Dubai, and Malaysia.

Furthermore, another source revealed that a large number of government officials in Bangladesh have purchased ‘Doctorate’ or ‘PhD’ degrees from various degree mills in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and other countries in Europe and Asia.

It should be mentioned here that buying a PhD from degree mills typically involves a few deceptive practices and steps, such as:

Online search: Individuals seeking to buy a PhD often start with an online search for degree mills that advertise quick and easy degrees.

Fake accreditation: These institutions often claim accreditation from bogus or non-recognized agencies to appear legitimate.

Contacting the degree mill: Prospective buyers contact the degree mill through their website or via email/phone. These mills usually provide a list of degrees and fields of study that they “offer”.

Payment: The degree mill requires payment upfront. Prices can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars depending on the degree and the supposed prestige of the institution.

Minimal or no coursework: Most degree mills require little to no coursework. Some may ask for a minimal amount of work, like a short essay, to feign legitimacy. Others might offer a “life experience” degree, claiming that the buyer’s professional experience is sufficient for earning a PhD.

After payment, the degree mill sends the PhD certificate, transcripts, and sometimes even fake verification services to the buyer. This can be done via mail or digitally.

Some degree mills go further by providing a phone number or a website where employers or other institutions can verify the degree, making it seem more authentic.

Using a fake degree can have serious legal and professional consequences. Employers, academic institutions, and licensing bodies are increasingly vigilant and capable of identifying fraudulent credentials. Furthermore, getting caught with a fake PhD can ruin a person’s professional reputation and career.

Employers should verify degrees by contacting the issuing institution directly and checking the accreditation status. Legitimate accrediting bodies are recognized by education authorities such as the Department of Education in the US or similar bodies in other countries.

It needs to be mentioned here that, buying a PhD from degree mills is an unethical and illegal practice. It undermines the value of legitimate educational achievements and can lead to significant personal and professional repercussions for those involved. For the sake of national interest, Bangladesh government needs to launch a drastic drive to investigate ‘Doctorate’ or ‘PhD’ degrees obtained mainly by government officials from various foreign entities.

In my opinion, for the sake of success in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s war against corruption, the other issues stated in this article need to be taken into serious consideration.

The gravity of the corruption scandal involving high-ranking officials like Matiur Rahman underscores the urgent need for decisive action. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s unwavering stance against graft represents a critical step toward restoring public trust and ensuring the rule of law in Bangladesh. However, for this campaign to truly succeed, it must extend beyond high-profile cases and address systemic corruption at all levels. Only then can Bangladesh hope to build a future where integrity prevails, and no individual, regardless of their power or position, can evade accountability. The fight against corruption is not merely a political necessity; it is a moral imperative for the nation’s progress and prosperity.

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