ACC goes to court again to block Toufique Imrose Khalidi’s bail

The Anti-Corruption Commission went to the High Court to block bail to bdnews24.com's Editor-in-Chief Toufique Imrose Khalidi in a case filed by the ACC.

Staff Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 8 Dec 2020, 07:26 AM
Updated : 8 Dec 2020, 02:25 PM

Justice Nazrul Islam Talukder and Justice Ahmed Sohel of the High Court issued a rule on Tuesday, ordering Khalidi and the state to explain in 10 days why the bail should not be cancelled.

Lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan argued for the ACC, while Deputy Attorney General AKM Amin Uddin Manik represented the state.

The High Court rule came after Senior Special Judge KM Imrul Kayes of the trial court passed the permanent bail order on Nov 25.

The High Court earlier on Aug 26 granted Khalidi an eight-week anticipatory bail in the case, which was upheld by a three-member bench of the Appellate Division on Sept 21.

The ACC contends that a Tk 420 million fund that Khalidi deposited into bank accounts came from an “unknown source”.

Khalidi consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Previously on Oct 20, Judge KM Imrul Kayes extended Khalidi's bail to Nov 25 after the High Court’s anticipatory bail expired.

After bdnews24.com announced a Tk 500 million investment by an asset management company in the news publisher in October 2019, the ACC began examining the deal and subsequently started a case against Khalidi on Jul 30.

ALLEGATIONS AND RESPONSES

In an instant reaction to the High Court ruling in August, Khalidi had said he was 'shocked' and 'surprised' by the charges levelled against him by the ACC while questioning the motive behind the case.

“If you look at the allegations, you'll find that the FIR is riddled with mistakes. There isn't a word of truth in it. This has been done to create confusion among the people and humiliate me," he told reporters at the time.

There are two allegations: one is that the money was earned through unscrupulous means and the other is that BRAC EPL, a subsidiary of BRAC Bank, did not conduct a valuation of the company.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi alleges an attempt to tarnish the image of both bdnews24.com and the individual who runs it.

Khalidi said BRAC EPL sent draft versions of information memorandum of bdnews24.com in 2017 after signing a non-disclosure agreement. "We have also submitted copies of our correspondences with BRAC EPL's managing director and CEO,” he said.

BRAC EPL sent another email in 2018, attaching the revised information memorandum of bdnews24.com with the valuation of Tk 3.71 billion or $46 million, which meant each share was valued at Tk 37,100.

After the ACC began examining the so-called allegation of corruption, Khalidi in an article detailed the circumstances under which bdnews24.com entered the deal, where the money was, why he himself sold some of his shares and what happened after the deal.

“The matter has been probed by more than one state agency—publicly as well as, may I dare say now, behind the scenes—because the allegations or rumours/gossips (spread through social media and other means in the lead-up to the ACC move) were of serious nature,” he wrote.

“The cruellest part was, those who orchestrated it all knew all too well that money only changed hands between two companies incorporated in Bangladesh and operated under Bangladesh laws. Yet the vengeful and powerful people were given free rein when they acted from behind the stage. And those who helped them spread the propaganda knew it too. And, again, those who prepared “reports” meant for people at the very top were fully aware of it too.”

“Whose purpose are they trying to serve by trying to harm arguably the lone independent news publisher in Bangladesh which has been credited with many firsts, globally and nationally?

In reactions to the ACC investigation, Toufique Imrose Khalidi said bdnews24.com did stories that hurt a “very powerful lobby”, and is paying the price for what he believes is good, exemplary journalism done by his colleagues.

“Why was there an attempt to tarnish the image of both bdnews24.com and the individual who runs it?” he asked.

After receiving a letter from the anti-graft agency, Khalidi appeared in the ACC twice in November 2019.

The letter received by Khalidi on Nov 5 said his statement was required in connection with the allegations of “transferring a huge amount of money” by “hiding location by himself and bdnews24.com”, and “earning wealth inconsistent with his known income through illegal activities”.

The authorities moved swiftly after bdnews24.com announced the investment by LR Global in a report on Oct 13, 2019, saying it will spend the money on the expansion of news automation and creativity.

The disclosure first prompted a decision from the Securities and Exchange Commission to “halt” the deal. For its part, the ACC soon afterwards weighed in, leaving certain bank accounts of Khalidi and bdnews24.com frozen.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher