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AB Bank must set aside Tk 165cr as provision: BB

by January 10, 2018 General

Bangladesh Bank has rejected AB Bank’s request for keeping provisioning in four phases between 2018 and 2021 against the Tk 165 crore laundered to the UAE in 2014.

In November last year, the central bank instructed the bank to immediately classify the laundered amount and end all borrowing, investing and lending through its offshore banking unit.

While AB Bank marked down the amount as bad loans, it wrote to the BB four times in the last one month requesting the central bank to allow it to keep provisioning against the amount in phases.

It had also sought permission from the central bank to resume borrowing for the OBU from abroad.

On January 8, the central bank issued a letter to the first-generation bank turning down both its requests.

The bank has been in a liquidity crunch for the last few months due to its bulging default loan portfolio.

The liquidity crunch will only become severe if it has to keep the provisioning of Tk 165 crore immediately, said a BB official.

The episode of money laundering, the second for the bank in two years, was unearthed in October last year by a central bank probe. In December 2013, AB Bank’s board of directors had approved investment of $20 million (Tk 165 crore) in Singapore-based fundraising and investment company Pinnacle Global Fund Pte Ltd (PGF) through the bank’s OBU.

But in February 2014 the OBU laundered the money to an account at the UAE-based Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.

The account belonged to Cheng Bao General Trading LLC, which acted as a special purpose vehicle (SPV) or a mediator for Pinnacle Global Fund. 

Cheng Bao immediately withdrew the money and closed the account. It could not be known where the money went after the withdrawal as AB Bank was unable to provide the central bank with any substantial documentation of Cheng Bao and the PGF. The probe found direct involvement of: M Wahidul Haque, chairman of AB Bank; M Fazlur Rahman and Shamim Ahmed Chaudhury, both former managing directors; and Abu Hena Mustafa Kamal, former head of financial institutions and treasury.

In the letter on January 8, the BB called for punitive measures against Kamal within 15 days.

The BB forwarded the probe report on November 15 to the Anti-Corruption Commission, who then got down to grilling six former and current directors of AB Bank and a businessman to learn more about the scam.

In 2015, the BB found the bank had laundered $40.25 million (Tk 340 crore) to Singapore and the UAE through its OBU.