In the past decade, several financial scams have occurred in Bangladesh. Among these, Hallmark Group and Basic Bank Loan Scam is prominent. There were several ongoing court cases and the Bangladesh Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was conducting investigations for these financial scams. During the ACC’s investigation of anti-casino operations, along with 45 other individuals, one specific name came up – Prashant Kumar Halder, who is popularly known as PK Halder. Although PK Halder’s various financial scams came to the fore in early 2020, he fled the country by the end of 2019. The ACC started investigating the allegation of embezzling BDT 3,500 crore against him, however, he is currently accused of embezzling BDT 11,000 crore. But on January 8, 2020, the ACC filed a case against PK Halder for illegal acquisition and money laundering of around Tk 275 crore.
PK Halder was born in Dighirjan village of Nazirpur upazila in the Pirojpur district of Bangladesh. His father is the late Prananendu Halder, and mother Leelavati Halder, a retired government primary school teacher. Both Prashant Kumar Halder and his brother Pritish Kumar Halder graduated from BUET and completed MBA from IBA, Dhaka University. Moreover, PK Halder is also a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). After graduation, PK Halder joined a financial institute “IIDFC”, and worked there as Deputy Managing Director till 2008.
PK Halder’s involvement in the financial scam started with the burglary of the local school fund of Dighirjan in 2002. According to a report by Jamuna TV, he was accused of misappropriating the school funds while he was the president of the school management committee and was publicly humiliated by being beaten with shoes. Although his mother was still in the village, they left the area soon after the incident and locals claim she was never seen there again. Meanwhile, in 2009, he was appointed as MD of the then Reliance Finance (now, Aviva Finance) with almost 10 years of banking experience. Later in July 2015, PK Halder joined the post of MD for NRB Global Bank.
PK Halder basically used several NBFIs and numerous shell or dummy corporations to run scams, which led to him stealing BDT 3500 crore from Bangladesh’s financial sector. NBFIs or Non Bank Financial Institutions can carry out several banking activities under the country’s banking regulations without actually being a bank. Although an NBFI cannot accept any type of deposits, it conducts financial activities such as providing loans to customers, retirement planning, education funding, stock and share underwriting, and wealth management. When an NBFI disburses a loan in the name of a person or institution, the loan money is not actually disbursed by the NBFI but by a bank under an agreement with it.
For example: suppose, an NBFI named A has an agreement with a bank named X. Now if a person or institution applies for a loan from A, then the NBFI analyzes all the information of the applicant. And if the applicant is eligible for a loan, the NBFI issues a loan of a certain amount in his name. The loan issued is then disbursed from X bank and not directly from the NBFI. Therefore, even though the transaction was entirely between A and the applicant, the money was actually paid by X Bank. Basically, Prashant Kumar Halder or PK Halder planned to pocket thousands of crores of money using this strategy. Apart from being a certified CFA, PK Halder has direct working experience as a senior officer in both NBFIs and banks, so he knew how to raise money from banks by setting up multiple shell companies and applying for loans through NBFIs.
As soon as he got the opportunity, he bought the shares of four NBFIs in the country and took control of them. However, of the four companies that he took control over, no shares were directly found under PK Halder’s name. Besides this, he established shell and dummy corporations one after another. Prothom Alo’s investigation revealed that although the share ownership of those companies was under the name of his associates, the main control of those companies actually belonged to PK Halder. He originally created these dummy corporations and institutions in the name of his brothers, friends, colleagues, relatives, and himself, most of which never existed. However, he could never have conducted such a huge scam alone without the support of his own family members, friends and former colleagues.
While being the MD of Reliance Finance, around 2014, with the help of several high-ranking bank officials, he took control of 4 non-bank financial institutions – International Leasing and Financial Services, People’s Leasing and Financial Services, FAS Finance and Investment Limited, and Bangladesh Industrial Finance Company (BIFC) by purchasing majority shares. According to a report by Prothom Alo, among these four institutions, PK Halder was supported by several policy-making officials of Bangladesh Bank while buying majority shares and acquiring BFIC and People’s Leasing.
Before PK Halder’s acquisition of these organizations, Bangladesh Bank took legal action against several board of directors members of these two institutions for breaking the law and taking several loans under false identity. Basically by using this opportunity, PK Halder bought the shares of these two companies and took control over them. In December 2015, two companies, namely Sukuza Ventures and Kanchi Ventures, were registered to take control of BFIC. Among them, Sukuza Ventures is controlled by Sukhada Limited and Anindita Mridha, the daughter of Sukumar Mridha, and she held 90 percent stake in Sukuza Venture. On the other hand, the director of Sukhada Limited is the former MD of Bank Asia, Irfanuddin Ahmed, who was the chairman of BIFC for some time. Besides, 95 percent shares of Kanchi Ventures are held by Hal International, whose representative is Irfanuddin Ahmed. On the other hand, to take control of People’s Leasing, another company of PK Halder called Anon Chemical bought the shares of the company through FAS Capital Management and Reliance Brokerage. 94 percent of Anon Chemical is owned by Pritish Kumar Halder and 5 percent is owned by his cousin Abhijit Adhikari.
On the other hand, FAS Finance is controlled by P&L International and Reptile Firm. Meanwhile, Mymensingh’s crocodile firm is jointly owned by the managing director of P&L International and KHB Securities, Mr Rajeev Som, and his wife Shimu Roy. Although Rajeev claims himself to be a salaried employee of the two organizations. In fact, these companies are also mainly owned by PK Halder. Apart from these, Hal International, BR International, Nature Enterprises, New Tech Enterprises were registered as companies in 2015 and the control of International Leasing was taken through these companies. Among them, 70 percent of Hal International is owned by PK Halder in his own name. International Leasing was doing well at that time, but after PK Halder took control of the company, the business started to deteriorate gradually. PK Halder and his accomplices siphoned money by taking loans of BDT 2,029 crore in the names of around 30 different institutions.
Bangladesh Bank has mentioned in a report that PK Halder is the beneficiary of each of these institutions even though these organizations are not directly owned by him. According to a source of Prothom Alo, PK Halder’s dummy companies were established to take loans from various financial institutions and to take control of four financial institutions, which are located on the 10th and 8th floors of the Eastern Trade Center in Purana Paltan, Dhaka and on the 8th and 14th floors of DH Tower in Karwan Bazar. The 10th floor of the Eastern Trade Center is originally the address of a firm named “Sukumar & Associates”, whose head – Sukumar Mridha, has been doing tax filing for PK Halder and his family members for a long time. Hal International, Hal Enterprises, Sukhada Limited, Sandeep International, Wintel International, Varna, Imexo, RB Enterprises, SA Enterprises, and several other companies are registered using this address. But the rooms of these institutions have been locked for a long time.
Sukumar Mridha told Prothom Alo in an interview that he and the Halder family have known each other for years, and he has been working on their tax filings for a long time. But, according to him, the hanging of the “Hal Enterprises” signboard in the office was completely without his knowledge, and he had absolutely nothing to do with it. However, according to the office of the Registrar of Joint Venture Companies and Firms (RJSC), Anindita Mridha, daughter of Sukumar Mridha, is the director of Wintel International, in whose name the shares of the financial institute BIFC were bought. Even Wintel International took a loan of BDT 40 crore from FAS Finance and BDT 60 crore from International Leasing and has not returned it till date. Apart from this, the 8th and 14th floors of DH Tower in Karwan Bazar are the offices of Reptile Farm, Anon Chemical, Northern Jute, Rahman Chemical, and Aziz Fiber, all of which are owned by PK Halder.
According to Prothom Alo, a total of BDT 240 crore has been deposited in different accounts of Bank Asia, NRB Global, and other banks under the name of PK Halder. A total of BDT 407 crore has been deposited in the account of Hal Travel Agency or Hal Trip, owned by PK Halder himself (90 percent share). However, another chairman of the agency, Tajbir Hasan, told Prothom Alo that Hal Trip can sell a maximum of BDT 3 crore worth of tickets per month. As a result, the question remains, how has more than BDT 400 crore accumulated in the account of a company in 3 years? But, Tajveer could not give any answer to this question. On the other hand, another company owned by PK Halder, First Communication, has around BDT 823 crores deposited in an account of First Security Bank. Besides this, the total loan taken from Reliance Finance by First Communication when PK Halder was MD stands at BDT 43 crore. Sukhada Ltd has BDT 21.41 crore in their account where PK Halder owns 90 percent of the company and his mother, Leelavati Halder has 5 percent share. Prothom Alo says, Leelavati Halder has BDT 160 crore in three bank accounts.
Out of which, the accounts in First Security Islami Bank were opened on March 7, 2013, and before being closed on August 26 of that year, three companies named Imexco, Varna, and Orial deposited Tk 19 crore in the last 5 months. Apart from that, a total of BDT 9 crore was deposited in another account of hers, which was again closed within 30 days. These institutions deposited the entire loan of BDT 63 crore taken from Reliance Finance in the account of Leelavati Halder. But no concern was ever raised by the bank about the deposit of so much money in the account of a retired primary school teacher like Leelavati Halder.
Moreover, PK Halder’s brother Pritish Kumar Halder has only BDT 50 lakh deposited in his bank account, but he owns several companies including Hal Technology, Hal Trip Technology, P&L Holding, Micro Technologies, Northern Jute, and more, which all together has more than BDT 500 crore deposited in various accounts of these companies. Also, a total of BDT 244 crore was deposited in two accounts of PK Halder at Bank Asia’s Dhanmondi branch at different times. From this account, BDT 205 crores were transferred to the account of Reliance Brokerage, BDT 37.50 crores to the account of Leelavati Halder, BDT 11 crores to the account of P&L Agro, BDT 3 crores to the account of Anon Chemical, and BDT 40 lakhs to the account of FAS Capital Management.
According to the Central Bank’s report, in all, around BDT 1600 crore were deposited in the bank accounts of PK Halder and his various organizations. Out of this, BDT 1200 crore were deposited in the account of three institutions, BDT 240 crore in the account of PK Halder, and BDT 160 crore in the account of his mother Leelavati Halder. However, these accounts currently have less than BDT 10 crore. On the other hand, PK Halder has taken out more than BDT 2000 crore from International Leasing alone.
Before conducting this scam, PK Halder had planned to transfer the embezzled money to the foreign country of India. For this plan, he arranged various government documents in advance for West Bengal, India under the identity of “Shivasankar Halder”. Even his associates also created different identities. In 2018, the two Halder brothers established a company called Hal Trip Technology in India. Later, in late 2019, PK Halder smuggled the embezzled money to India and fled there. On reaching India, he started investing in fish enclosures in West Bengal with his chief associate, Sukumar Mridha. However, in an interview to Ekattor TV, PK Halder said that one of his well-wishers advised him to leave the country as PK Halder’s name came up in the ACC investigation in the casino case, but he didn’t disclose the well wishers name. After fleeing the country, he first went to India and then to Singapore and Canada, according to various media outlets. And after the ban notice of foreign travel was issued against P K Halder on October 22, 2019, a letter was sent to the Immigration Authority of Bangladesh at 10:30 am the next day on October 23, 2019, and another message was sent on WhatsApp at 2:43 pm. But, according to the immigration police, PK Halder crossed into India through the Benapole border 2 hours before they received the official notice.
However, on May 14, 2022, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) of India arrested a total of six accomplices, including PK Halder, from Ashoknagar in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, India. After the arrest, four of his associates, including PK Halder, were granted remand by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), and his fifth aide, a woman, is currently in ED custody. The ED has been investigating financial scams, illegal remittances to India, money laundering abroad, and illegitimate assets.
In a source of Prothom Alo published on June 7, 2022, the central intelligence agency of India said that assets totaling BDT 300 crore were found in 88 bank accounts of PK Halder and his associates in various parts of the country including West Bengal. Of which PK Halder currently has around BDT 60 crore in cash in his 44 bank accounts. During the 14-day interrogation by the ED, PK Halder and his accomplices admitted to a total of 44 movable and immovable properties in various parts of India, the whereabouts of which were confirmed by ED. The ED also said that PK Halder and his accomplices procured several government identification documents from India, such as a West Bengal government ration card, voter ID card, income tax ID card or PAN Card, citizenship ID card, and Aadhaar card, using the identity of Shivshankar Halder. In addition, the ED’s investigation has traced the whereabouts of around 40 properties including 7 flats in Malaysia.
An application has already been made to India to bring PK Halder back to Bangladesh. However, since PK Halder has violated several laws and policies of Bangladesh as well as India, it is said that he will be extradited to Bangladesh after trial in the court there. Currently, the ACC has filed a total of 36 cases against 83 people including PK Halder. Of these, 13 have been arrested so far, and 11 have given confessional statements in court. In one of these 36 cases, the ACC has also submitted a charge sheet to the court. Recently, the RAB has also arrested his two female assistants. Meanwhile, according to ACC sources, PK Halder has been accused of embezzling a total of BDT 11 thousand crore. Among them, the ACC believes that they embezzled about BDT 3500 crores from International Leasing and Finance Limited, BDT 2200 crores from FAS Finance, BDT 2500 crores from Reliance Finance, and BDT 3000 crores from People’s Leasing.
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