Toufique Imrose Khalidi asks journos to investigate what led to graft allegations

  • Staff Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2019-11-11 17:20:16 BdST

Toufique Imrose Khalidi, editor-in-chief of bdnews24.com, has called for journalists to investigate the anti-graft agency’s move to look into anonymous allegations against him of possessing wealth inconsistent with his disclosed income.

“Journalists should investigate what led to these allegations,” Khalidi told reporters at the ACC headquarters in Dhaka on Monday.

Khalidi has responded to queries from the media for the first time since he received a letter from the Anti-Corruption Commission on Nov 5.

In his immediate reactions to the letter on Nov 5, he said: “We did stories that hurt a very powerful lobby, and are paying the price for what I believe is good, exemplary journalism done by my colleagues.”

“They could file a case if any word was erroneous in our reportage, or if there was any mistake in a single sentence or a bit of information. Why didn’t they file a case? Why did they choose this path?” Khalidi said on Monday.

The ACC moved to examine graft allegations against Khalidi, the claims he brushed aside as “utterly baseless”. The agency asked him to appear in the commission’s headquarters on Nov 11.

Khalidi said he sought a time extension but did not receive any official reply from the authorities, which is why he went to the ACC.  

“I always try to comply with the law. What if I’m not allowed an extension? That’s why I’ve come here. I had to come as I was not officially replied to,” he said, responding to a question from a reporter.    

The ACC letter said Khalidi’s 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”.  

“I don’t understand the allegations. A reputed institution invested in bdnews24.com. We issued new shares to them. I have sold only a portion of my shares in the company. I don’t understand how I amassed illegal wealth by selling my shares,” Khalidi said.

“A company registered in Bangladesh has bought my stake. It manages mutual funds. We have accepted this investment in compliance with all the rules and regulations. This is the first time in the country’s history that such an investment has been made in a media or news publishing company. I think that some people did not like that.”

“What has been said about me at the very personal level is deeply painful to me. And I think that it’s painful to those who know me personally and work with me -- my friends, colleagues, my relatives and my family.”

“Their claims are completely baseless. I had some share in the company and I sold a portion of that. The paperwork was completed on Oct 3 and money was deposited into my account on Oct 6. I have some money and I will pay tax on that. That will happen in the 2019-20 fiscal year,” Khalidi said.

“No one can ever accuse me of not properly paying my taxes. No one can prove that I never paid taxes. I can speak boldly because I know and obey all the rules.”

"DO YOUR HOMEWORK"

Khalidi corrected Prothom Alo’s senior reporter Morshed Noman after he mispronounced the asset management company as AR Global. “Not so. It’s LR Global,” said Khalidi.

The reporter then followed up on LR Global, claiming the fund manager is banned from investing for five years by the securities regulator. Khalidi first referred the reporter to Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission to get the answer.

For his part, however, Khalidi argued: “If a company is banned, then there is no way it can issue a cheque from its managed funds, and no bank will honour that cheque.”

“I am saying, do a little more homework. You have just said that LR Global is banned for five years. You did not do your homework. Do your homework before asking questions.”

The reporter then said his question was based on “hearsay”.

“Never ask questions based on hearsay. Do your homework first and be informed. We don’t write news based on hearsay. You will never see bdnews24.com publishing hearsay. You will never see us running fake news campaigns,” Khalidi said.   

Noman then followed up with another question: Why have you been targeted all of a sudden? What do you make of it?

Khalidi said: “I’m extremely surprised. I’m shocked. I haven’t spoken to anyone about the matter. This is the first time I am speaking out in public. When the letter arrived, I told my colleagues that, if required, I will relinquish my post until the matter is settled. I told them that they’re free to ask me questions as I’m in the news.”

On why bdnews24.com’s editor-in-chief was summoned by the anti-graft agency, ACC Secretary Muhammad Dilwar Bakht said, “There’s an allegation of acquiring wealth beyond his known source of income. An investigation into the allegation is ongoing."

"The investigation officer asked him to appear on Nov 11 to gather information for the sake of the probe.”

Khalidi wrote to the investigator on Nov 7 seeking a time extension. The official has taken his request into account and is working on fixing a new date, said Bakht.
 
Addressing Khalidi’s assertion that the allegations against him are ‘baseless’, the ACC secretary said: “Whenever a complaint is placed, the commission’s probe committee looks into it and runs an investigation. I hope we can get to the bottom of the issue through the investigation.”