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Bid to recover Tk 2,500 crore

SBL turns to Dhaka Dist admn to locate Hallmark's lands

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Kazi Zahidul Hasan :
Sonali Bank Limited (SBL) has requested the Dhaka district administration to assign a government surveyor to ascertain the physical location of errant Hallmark Group's lands within the jurisdiction of Dhaka district as per schedule.
They urged the Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka in this regard through a letter recently.  
In addition to mark the government's khas land, the Sonali Bank management has also asked for specifying locations, boundary and other details of the Hallmark Group's lands mortgaged and proposed for  mortgage to the bank and plot numbers and records of rights (dag and khatian) of mills owned by the business Group.
Officials said the state-owned bank turned to the Dhaka District administration after failing to sell properties of the Group that swindled nearly Tk 2,508.22 crore from the bank's hotel Ruposhi Bangla (Dhaka Sheraton) branch between 2010 and 2012 by way of issuing fraudulent letter of credits (LCs) to fictitious companies.   
The bank filed 29 cases against a number of business entities of the Hallmark Group to recover the money. It has already taken hold of 10 entities of the Group and mortgaged land of the Group as per the Court order.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) also filed 38 cases against the perpetrators of the loan scam.
A Dhaka court earlier sentenced a former Sonali Bank official and two officials of Hall-Mark Group to life in jail for embezzling a sum of Tk 2.22 crore from Sonali Bank's Ruposhi Bangla branch through Paragon Knit Composite Ltd, a sister concern of Hallmark Group.
A senior Sonali bank official told The New Nation yesterday that the bank has already taken possession of the Hallmark properties and mortgaged land after court order. But when it wants to sell properties on auction, nobody takes part.
"We wanted to sell Hallmark properties several times on auction. But nobody participated due to bad reputation of the controversial business group," he said, "It has also alleged that the group established most of its mills and factories in government's khas lands and got hold of the lands through preparing fake documents and papers."
Hallmark Group mortgaged 2601.60 and 3515.75 decimals of land to Sonali Bank before and after the loan scandal surfaced. The value of the lands will probably be Tk 389.54 crore as assessed by the bank.
Besides, the bank took hold of the original deed of additional 7629.21 decimals of land for the proposed mortgage.  The market valued of the land might be Tk 780. 50 crore.
The market value of the mortgaged lands is about Tk 1,170 crore against Tk 2,508.22 crore liability of the Group.
"The deeds and documents of the mortgaged land fell short thereof.
So, we approached to the district administration to determine the landed properties of Hallmark Group. We will be able to sell the mortgaged lands after obtaining all the necessary deeds and papers," SBL official said.
He said the business group has publicly disappeared after shutting down its mills, factories and business firms, but Sonali Bank is still struggling to recover the money that it swindled from the bank through fraudulent practice.
When asked, the Sonali Bank official said, the Legal Affairs Division of the bank has been closely monitoring the latest positions of all the Hallmark related cases and pursuing them with utmost sincerity to win the legal battle as well as to recover the bank's money.
The Bangladesh Bank (BB) unearthed over Tk 3,500 crore loan scam at Sonali Bank's Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch in May 2012. Of the sum, Hallmark alone took over Tk 2,500 crore submitting forged documents in connivance with some bank officials.

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