failed to find evidence against Gazi Belayet Hossain !
It was like an alarm bell that the local media rang without verifying the figure and the social media fanatics jumped on the bandwagon, making him an icon of Canada’s notorious Begum Para.
There was a report published in a section of Dhaka-based newspapers in 2020 that created sensation among Bangladeshis and the Bangladeshi diaspora in Canada in particular. The report was about an expatriate Bangladeshi who reportedly fled to Canada stealing Tk 300 crore worth of money taken from BASIC Bank in loans.
Not only Gazi Belayet Hossain, the person in contention, was at the receiving end of this humiliation, but his wife and two sons also faced the music, as their family photo went viral in the social media as a family of thieves.
The Canada-based Bangladeshi expats took to the streets in Toronto and demanded expulsion of the money launderer family from the North American country.
The entire episode of humiliation was done on a fictitious figure of loans, Tk 300 crore, and the figure made all the difference as an amount of less than Tk 50 or 60 crore was not good enough to create a sensation. So, it was made Tk 300 crore to bring a businessman and his family to the knees.
The Bengali-language daily which first published the report gave the names of 12 companies that received the Tk 300 crore loans from different branches of the bank. The companies were SFG Shipping Line, S Resources Shipping Line, S Suhi Shipping Line, Shifan Shipping Line, Asian Shipping Line, Labs Enterprise, Bangladesh Development Company, Delta Systems Limited, Brothers Enterprise, Green Bangla Holding Kieb Trading, M Nasiruddin and Basgriho Properties. None of these companies is owned by Gazi Belayet or his family. However, the newspaper, without specifying, said Belayet is related to several of the above shipping companies. The daily didn’t say if Belayet was not related to all the 12 companies then how the figure stands at Tk 300 crore. The newspaper also refrained from quoting anyone to justify its claim.
Interestingly, several other leading dailies and online newspapers later did follow up stories on the issue quoting the same Tk 300 crore figure again without verifying it from the concerned bank, although some of these dailies are regarded widely for objectivity.
When contacted, Belayet, an ex-general secretary of Bangladesh Cargo Vessel Owners Association (BCVOA), told that he took Tk 21 crore from BASIC Bank through Gazi Bricks and Tk 8 crore through Belayet Navigation. He said he repaid Tk 4 crore from the Tk 8 crore loan and duly implemented projects meant for the loans.
“When loans worth thousands of crore taka were taken away from banks showing false documents and overvalued hypothecations, my loans are properly covered by assets mortgaged with the bank,” he said, adding that properties worth Tk 30 crore of Gazi Bricks and, land and factories worth Tk 20 crore of Belayet Navigation are mortgaged with the BASIC Bank.
He, however, said he was not sure how much he owes to bank now if interests and penal interests are added to the loans. “I am negotiating with the bank and will come to Bangladesh possibly in April to settle the loans,” he noted.
Asked, a senior BASIC Bank official told that the amount due from Belayet would be around Tk 57 crore. “We have Belayet’s assets mortgaged with the bank. We have taken initiative to recover the money, if needed through selling out the mortgaged properties,” he added.
He also said Belayet didn’t borrow from Gulshan branch of the bank as reported in some of the newspapers, he borrowed from only the Dilkusha branch of the bank.
Several newspapers while reporting on the issue, described Belayet as a businessman in ship breaking industry. However, Belayet said he was never in ship breaking, but in shipping business.
He said he was the general secretary of the BCVOA for six times, president of Bangladesh Coastal Ship Owners Association for thrice and the convenor of Water Transport Cell for eight times. “The India-Bangladesh naval protocol was signed on my initiative. I and my family didn’t deserve the humiliation.”
On the 61 Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) cases filed against BASIC Bank’s loan defaulters, he said ACC could not file a single case against him, although several newspapers tagged him in the 61 cases. He said he came to Bangladesh in 2019 and faced a ban on his return to Canada by ACC. But the High Court cleared the ban and allowed him to travel back finding no evidence of misappropriation of money or money laundering against him, he said, adding the Appellate Division later upheld the High Court order following appeal against it by the ACC.
He said the ACC acted on a complaint in a white paper by someone who wanted him not to return to Canada, but failed to find evidence against him.
On the luxurious properties he bought in Canada, Belayet said he migrated to Canada in 2006 and bought a house there for 700,000 Canadian dollars in the same year. He later sold the house for 3 million Canadian dollars and used 2.2 million dollars to buy the current house that the media highlighted, he added.