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BB offer energises Hall-Mark to rejoin loan game

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Kazi Zahidul Hasan :
The controversial Hall-Mark Group has appealed to authorities for long-term restructuring of its Tk 2675.71 scandalous loans in light of a central bank's circular that offers easy terms and conditions for the defaulters to reschedule their bad loans.
On May 16 this year, Bangladesh Bank (BB) issued the circular titled 'Special Policy on Loan Rescheduling and One Time Exit', allowing the defaulters to regularise their defaulted loans upon a down payment of just 2 per cent of the total loan amount with a repayment period up to 10 years and 9 per cent interest, to get further loans.
Encouraged by the circular, the errant Hall-Mark Group wrote to the Finance Ministry recently, seeking the opportunity to reschedule the Group's Tk 2675.71 crore fraudulent loans piled with Sonali Bank.
The New Nation obtained a copy of the letter, signed by jailed Hall-Mark Group Chairman Jasmine Islam and Managing Director Tanvir Mahmud.
In October of 2012, the central bank unearthed Tk 3,500 crore loan scandals by Hall-Mark Group and five other companies while conducting a special audit on Sonali Bank's Ruposhi Bangla branch in Dhaka.
Of the amount, Hall-Mark Group took away nearly Tk 2,700 crore alone.
The little known business Group used fraudulent means to obtain those loans in between 2010 and 2012.
Hall-Mark loan scam is the country's first major banking fraud perpetrated by the group's high rank officials in collaboration with some dishonest officials of Sonali Bank, the country's largest state-owned bank. 
In the letter, Jasmine and Tanvir sought the opportunity to reschedule the Group's Tk 2,675.71 crore funded loans as claimed by the Sonali Bank in its lawsuit.
Tanvir is in jail since his arrest in October 2012 in connection with 11 embezzlement cases filed   by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
Hall-Mark Chairman Jasmine is also behind the bar in a case filed by the ACC for not submitting her wealth statement.
In the letter, the duo also sought conditional bail to ensure smooth installment payment on the rescheduled loans and reopen the Group's some of the factories partially.
The duo in their letter claimed that Hall-Mark Group established 65 factories in its 100 acres land at Hemayetpur in Savar, utilizing the loans from the Sonali Bank.
Of them, 43 units were undergoing production till March 2012 and raw materials and garments produced by them were on sale in local and overseas markets.
Besides, most modern machines were set up at the factories at the cost of Tk 500 crore, creating job opportunities for 40,000 people, according to the letter.  
"After that some people misguided us and the Group sinks with huge bank liabilities. I (Tanvir) am in jail for seven years in 11 corruption cases filed by ACC against me. By this time, Hall-Mark Group factories went out of production. Machinery installed at the factories are rapidly losing their effectiveness due to halt in production and lack of proper care," read the letter.
It further read, "We believe the BB's circular has created an opportunity to pay back all of the Group's bad debts piled with Sonali Bank. If the debt is restructured it could have been saved the Group's 43 export-oriented industries, create employment opportunities again for many and pave the way for foreign exchange earnings."
Mentioning the conditions of the BB's circular, the letter cited that Hall-Mark Group would have to pay Tk 54 crore down payment for its Tk 2,675.71 crore (funded) loans.
"Tk 100 crore deposited under various accounts is maintained by us (Tanvir, Jasmine) and companies of the Hall-Mark Group. The authorities had frozen the bank accounts following directives by court. The accounts should unfreeze to ensure the down payment against the Group's loans with the bank," read the letter.
Earlier, Tanvir Mahmud also had written to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts seeking conditional bail of Jasmine Islam to the pave way of reopening the Group's factories and help pay back the outstanding loans of Sonali Bank.
The business group swindled public money six years ago, but the Sonali Bank has not been able to recover even a single penny so far and it is adversely affecting the public bank's financial health.
Md. Obayed Ullah Al Masud, Managing Director of Sonali Bank, could not be reached for comments despite several attempts on his cell phone.

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