Express press service
NEW DELHI: Six Bangladeshi nationals, including a former prominent banker from Dhaka, who had previously embezzled millions of money in their country and settled near Kolkata after assuming Indian identities, were arrested on May 15 by the Law Enforcement (ED) Directorate in a ‘silent operation’ of Ashoknagar in the North 24 Parganas district.
The six Bangladeshi nationals had managed to obtain Indian citizenship less than three years after disappearing from Dhaka. The ED operation was carried out following an official request for an investigation by the Sheikh Hasina government.
Another Bangladeshi national, identified as Sukumar Mridha, who acted as a tax lawyer and adviser to the banker, was previously arrested by Bangladesh’s Financial Intelligence Unit and Anti-Corruption Commission in Dhaka.
The detection of the six foreign nationals and their late evening arrests at no less than nine locations in Kolkata, Ashoknagar and Katwa, in the adjacent districts of North 24 Parganas and Burdwan, punctures the Narendra Modi government’s allegedly tough stance against immigration clandestine. and exposes the weakness of passport security control. The arrests also reveal the laxity of the police and intelligence services in West Bengal under the Trinamool Congress.
According to ED sources in Kolkata and security sources in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi banker, identified as Prasanta Kumar Haldar, former managing director of NRB Global Bank, disappeared from the neighboring country’s capital in 2019 after being charged of embezzlement and money laundering to the tune of 2,500 crore taka, which is almost equivalent to the rupee in exchange value. Prasanta Kumar Haldar assumed a fictional identity as Shibshankar Haldar.
Among the other five Bangladeshis, some of whom lived in different parts of West Bengal under assumed Indian names, are Prithwish Kumar Haldar and Pranesh Kumar Haldar, the former banker’s younger brothers. While the five Bangladeshi men were placed in custody in the emergency room until May 17 (extended since until May 24), the woman accomplice, who has also changed her identity, is now in police custody.
Details of the investigation by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of Bangladesh and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) – now available with The new Indian Express – show that Shibshankar Haldar passed through West Bengal at the Benapole border on October 23, 2019. At one point he moved to Canada but returned to West Bengal, investing the money embezzled in Bangladesh in 20 to 22 properties spread over different towns in the north of 24 Parganas.
Bangladeshi investigative agencies filed 34 complaints against Shibshankar Haldar and froze 83 bank accounts he allegedly operated in that country. Further investigations revealed that Haldar’s modus operandi was to obtain loans from Bangladeshi banks for benami companies that only existed on paper.
On the other hand, the ED found that Bangladeshi nationals “have successfully launched companies in India based on fraudulent identities”. In addition, they purchased “real estate properties” in Kolkata, North 24 Parganas and Burdwan. The ACC and FIU discovered that Mridha had also invested money in West Bengal, in addition to buying properties, including a bungalow in Ward No. 15 of Ashoknagar Municipality.
ACC sources have said that based on the India-Bangladesh extradition treaty, the anti-corruption agency will “do everything in its power” to extradite Haldar, his brothers and others. other associates to Bangladesh “once the Indian authorities complete their investigation”. ”.
Haldar’s name and details of the huge sums raised by him emerged in 2019 during the Bangladeshi authorities’ campaign against Dhaka’s casinos that year. The six Bangladeshi nationals managed to obtain Indian citizenship documents (including a passport) by fraudulently obtaining and submitting ration cards, voter ID cards, permanent account numbers (PANs) and Adhar cards.
According to details of the investigation that ACC and FIU shared with India’s ED, the Bangladeshi financial institutions that Haldar, his brothers and associates “defrauded” between 2009 and 2019 include the People’s Leasing and Financial Service (PLFS ), FAS Finance, Reliance Finance and International Leasing and Financial Service Ltd (ILFSL). “While liquidation proceedings have started in the case of PLFS, the others may soon be completed,” a Bangladeshi official said.