ACC prosecutes Ron and Rick Sikder for money laundering

Ron spent over $6.1 million and Rick more than $2.62 million through credit cards beyond their limits, according to prosecutors

Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 1 April 2024, 08:30 PM
Updated : 1 April 2024, 08:30 PM

The  Anti-Corruption Commission, or ACC, has prosecuted Sikder Group Managing Director Ron Haque Sikder and his brother Rick Haque Sikder for laundering money abroad.

On Monday, Director Benazir Ahmed initiated two cases at Dhaka District Office 1 against the brothers, the agency's spokesperson Md Akhtarul Islam told bdnews24.com.

Both cases include five former senior officials of National Bank as defendants.

The allegations in both cases are similar. Both brothers spent beyond their limits abroad using credit cards, which was not reported to Bangladesh's Credit Information Bureau (CIB) by National Bank. Instead, bank officials illegally increased the credit limits for the two brothers.

Ron Haque Sikder spent approximately Tk 500 million (according to the exchange rate in 2017) and Rick Haque Sikder around Tk 215 million beyond their limits.

This money was sent from National Bank to 20 bank accounts in Thailand under the names of the two brothers and their associates. The funds were used to pay off the credit card debts of the brothers. 

Funds were also received in the names of the duo from various countries.

bdnews24.com could not obtain comments from the two brothers regarding the case.

The business 'empire' built by their father Zainul Haque Sikder is now in the hands of his wife and children.

However, various allegations against Ron and Rick have been surfacing in the media for several years. They have also lost their positions as directors of the bank due to intervention by Bangladesh Bank.

ADDITIONAL DEFENDANTS

In both cases, alongside Ron and Rick, former executive vice president and head of card division Md Mahfuzur Rahman, former managing director Shah Syed Abdul Bari, former additional managing directors MA Wadud and ASM Bulbul, and former managing director Chowdhury Moshtaq Ahmed have been named as defendants.

THE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST THE TWO BROTHERS

The lawsuit states that Ron Haque Sikder went abroad five times from 2017 to 2021 and spent $6,152,225. However, he could only spend a maximum of $12,000 at a time, totalling $60,000.

That means he spent an additional $6,092,225 (approximately Tk 50 crore as per the rate in 2017) abroad, exceeding his credit card limit.

Rick Haque Sikder spent $2,682,499 on his credit card during his five trips abroad between 2017 and 2021, despite his limit being $60,000.

That means he overspent by $2,622,499. The debt was later repaid by laundering money from Bangladesh to pay off the card debt.

According to Bangladesh Bank rules, credit card debt information must be uploaded to the CID database on a monthly basis in a timely manner. However, Mahfuzur Rahman, Head of Card Division at National Bank, did not report the credit card debt information for four years until 2020.

The language of the two cases is similar. According to the charges, the accused unlawfully provided Ron and Rick Haque Sikder with illegal credit limit benefits on their international credit cards without informing CIB.

According to Bangladesh Bank's policies, they could have been eligible for a maximum credit limit of $38,461. However, their credit limit was illegally increased beyond the regulations.

Investigations revealed that this debt was later repaid by laundering money from Bangladesh Bank abroad.

The Bangladesh Bank's Financial Intelligence Unit, BFIIU, found that Ron and Rick Haque Sikder have at least 20 bank accounts in their own names and those of their associates in Thailand. Money was transferred from National Bank to these accounts.

Funds were also transferred to Ron and Rick's personal and associated bank accounts from the United States, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Switzerland, China, Vienna, Australia, Britain, and Russia.

Despite the obligation to pay the credit card's outstanding balance within a specified period each month, Ron and Rick continued to incur expenses through their credit card for more than a year without paying the balance, exploiting the bank director's authority.

These activities are mentioned as punishable offences under section 5(2) of the Anti-Corruption Act 1947, section 109 of the Penal Code, and sections 4(2) and 4(3) of the Money Laundering Prevention Act 2012 in the two cases.

PREVIOUS CHARGES

In August 2021, a Dhaka court acquitted Ron Haque Sikder and his another brother Dipu Haque Sikder of charges of trying to kill two officials of Exim Bank.

Former army officer Serajul Islam, a director of Exim Bank, started the case against Ron and Dipu with Gulshan police in May that year, saying the brothers had abducted the bank’s Managing Director Mohammed Haider Ali Miah and Additional Managing Director Mohammad Feroz Hossain, and their two chauffeurs.

The charges also included firing a gun in an attempted murder and forcing Haider and Feroz into signing documents for loan.

Amid the first lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic and a ban on international flights, Ron and Dipu had left Bangladesh for Thailand by an air ambulance.

The police seized a car belonging to Ron as part of the investigation.

Ron was arrested on return from abroad in February 2022 after the death of his father and Sikder Group’s founding Chairman Zainul Haque Sikder. Ron was released on bail the next day.

NATIONAL BANK

NBL, once a high-flier in Bangladesh’s financial system, made headlines in May 2022 when the central bank had ordered it to completely stop disbursing loans amid scams.

The bank, controlled by the Sikder family, suffered a Tk 22 billion loss on slump in earnings together with mounting bad debts.

The ban was lifted in December, but weeks later, in January 2023, the central bank put new restrictions. NBL was not allowed to disburse loans of Tk 100 million or over without the permission of the Bangladesh Bank.

It was also barred from disbursing any loans for projects, imports or against export orders.