At least 20 Bangladeshis have opened offshore companies in European country Malta, which is dubbed “a tax haven”.
This has been revealed in the latest report of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that is sifting through a set of 13.4 million leaked documents known as Paradise Papers relating to offshore investments.
The ICIJ which made the disclosure on Wednesday did not mention how much money the Bangladeshis transferred to Malta from Bangladesh or elsewhere in the world.
Most of the companies the Bangladeshis got registered in Malta operate in shipping, energy and textile sectors.
Following the report, Bangladesh’s Anti Corruption Commission and the central bank have vowed to probe the matter.
The 20 Bangladeshis include controversial businessman Moosa Bin Shamsher, who got registered Venus Overseas Holdings on May 4, 2010.
Moosa is the chairman of DATCO, a local manpower recruiting company.
The Daily Star could not reach Moosa for comments. It also tried to contact DATCO General Manager Mosharof Hossain, but he did not respond to phone calls.
Last year, Moosa was quizzed by the ACC over allegations of corruption and concealing wealth.
Two names — Imran Rahman and Shahnaz Huda Razzak — came up twice in the list. They used Dhaka Export Processing Zone Ltd in Savar as their local address, according to the report.
The duo opened shipping companies Ocean Ice and Southern Ice in October 2001. Both of them are directors of the firms, it said.
The leaked documents show Imran is an expatriate living in Vietnam.
Three companies — Marzan Shipping, Quamar Shipping and Shams Shipping — were registered against two brothers Mohammed A Awwal and Mohammed A Malek at different times between 1993 and 1997.
The two are based in Chittagong. Awwal is the chairman of Bengal Shipping in the port city and his brother Malek is its managing director.
Besides, KH Asadul Islam from the capital’s Dhanmondi opened two companies — Intrepid Group and Intrepid Capital — on March 20, 2015. Farhan Aqebur Rahman from the city’s Gulshan is a director of Intrepid Group, according to the leaked documents.
This newspaper, however, could not independently verify the information mentioned in the ICIJ report.
“We will include these names in our ongoing enquiry,” ACC Chairman Iqbal Mahmood told this correspondent yesterday.
He said the ACC has sought information from the financial intelligence units of different countries about the Bangladeshis whose names came up in the previous leaks. But it has not yet received anything significant.
Last November, the ICIJ released data from the Bermuda-based offshore law firm Appleby, containing information on entities registered in more than 30 offshore jurisdictions.
A month later, the ICIJ released additional information from corporate registries from four secrecy jurisdictions that appeared in the Paradise Papers investigation: Barbados, the Bahamas, Aruba and Nevis.
The latest data comes from three corporate registries: the Cook Islands, Samoa and Malta.
With this release, information on more than 290,000 companies related to the Paradise Papers have been made available in the database, more than from any of the ICIJ’s previous leaks.
The latest ICIJ report also mentions the name of Zulfiqar Ahmed from Dhanmondi, who got registered a firm named Khaleda Shipping Company in Malta in May 1999.
Besides, Atikuz Zaman set up New Technology Investment Ltd in the European country in December 2011. He is a shareholder of the offshore firm. He mentioned Russia and Bangladesh as his linked countries.
However, he used his address in Moscow for the company’s registration.
Another Bangladeshi, Tajul Islam Tajun, whose name had earlier cropped up in the Panama Papers, got registered four companies in June, 2005, using the same name, date and his address in Narayanganj. Faruque Palwan and Tuhin Islam Sumon were shown as directors of the four companies.
Moreover, Mahamood Hossain and Mohammed Rezaul Haque got registered offshore companies, showing Ireland and Bangladesh as their linked countries. Both of them opened the companies, using their Dublin addresses, show the documents.
The other names mentioned in the report are: Amanullah Chagla from DOHS Baridhara; Mohammed Kamal Bhuiyan; Mahtaba Rahman from DOHS Banani; Md Fazle Elahi Choudhury from DOHS Baridhara and Yousuf Khaleque.
Talking to this newspaper yesterday, Bangladesh Bank Deputy Governor Abu Hena M Razee Hassan said the central bank would investigate the financial dealings and transactions made by the people whose name came up in the ICIJ report.
The BB usually investigates such allegations through Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit to verify whether the people in question laundered money abroad.
The ACC chairman, however, said it is very tough to proceed with this type of cases without specific information.
“If we ask for details of the Bangladeshis from Malta by only giving it their names and addresses, it will not give us anything,” said the chairman.
He, however, said the ACC will launch an enquiry soon.
Earlier in November last year, the Paradise Papers revealed that businessman and BNP Vice Chairman Abdul Awal Mintoo got registered energy company NFM Energy Ltd in tax haven Bermuda on August 9, 1999.
The ICIJ in 2013 and 2016 leaked secret data where names of some Bangladeshi individuals and entities cropped up.
The ACC investigated the matter, but could not reveal anything significant.