Toufique Imrose Khalidi appears ‘frustrated’ with pace of ACC probe

  • News Desk, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-01-24 23:12:34 BdST

bdnews24
Accused of corruption, Toufique Imrose Khalidi sheds light on what he believes has happened.

bdnews24.com’s Editor-in-Chief Toufique Imrose Khalidi appears to be “frustrated” with the pace of the anticorruption watchdog’s investigation into allegations of corruption against him.

The move by the Anti-Corruption Commission has left bdnews24.com’s bank accounts frozen for nearly three months now.

“We at bdnews24.com not only tried to pursue ethical journalism, we attempted to modernise the way it has been practised in Bangladesh,” he wrote in an article, “All for journalism!” published in The Opinion Pages by bdnews24.com on Friday.    

Khalidi appeared in the Anti-Corruption Commission twice in November after receiving a letter, which stated that the agency was examining his wealth. 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”.  

It came swiftly after the disclosure of a Tk 500 million investment in bdnews24.com by LR Global, one of Bangladesh’s top fund managers.

In his article, Khalidi explained why he chose to write about his battle on the news publisher’s website dedicated to serving the audience. “I am happy to leave it to the readers/viewers to form their own opinion, barring a very few exceptions when I failed to restrain myself. In this particular instance, things came to a point when I felt I owed an explanation to millions of our audience.”

The speed at which the regulators moved was “astonishing — and paradoxically, from a different point of view, commendable indeed”, he wrote.

The disclosure first prompted a decision from the Securities and Exchange Commission to “halt” the deal and a letter to the investor as well as a press statement the same day. For its part, the ACC soon afterwards weighed in with a letter summoning him to its headquarters. 

“One would only wish responses to myriad anomalies in Bangladesh’s troubled capital market and complaints from numerous stakeholders would have similar speed!” Khalidi wrote.

According to media reports, a court ordered banks to freeze certain accounts of Khalidi and bdnews24.com.

The banks sent SMSs saying they “freezed” the accounts while he is yet to receive the court order, which, according to media reports, dated Dec 1 last year. 

Blocking the fixed deposit receipt or FDR accounts “(especially the ones held by the company) meant we could not take those crucial steps that would increase our revenue and eventually strengthen our medium- to long-term financial position, thus depriving both parties of the investment dividends”, Khalidi wrote.

“We are trapped, for all practical purposes.”

“So wait, wait, wait and waste the opportunity provided by the investment. bdnews24.com must continue to suffer,” he wrote.

He also shed light on what he believes has happened.

“Both BSEC and ACC acted very fast. One motive, apparently, was to stop LR Global and punish it for being a rival to a certain company,” he wrote.

“The second was to ensure bdnews24.com did not benefit from the investment. Because certain individuals want it to sink and die a slow, painful death as they couldn’t lay their hand on it or control it editorially.”

“bdnews24.com has a reputation of being able to work wonders out of very low investment. It has suffered chronic underinvestment for 13 long, difficult years but managed to survive as the most trusted provider of news in Bangladesh.

“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?

“Why was there an attempt to tarnish the image of both bdnews24.com and the person who runs it?” he wrote. “Strangely, important state agencies reacted to rumours rather than act based on evidence.

The letter from the ACC summoned him to appear in the commission’s headquarters on Nov 11. Despite seeking a time extension, Khalidi went to the ACC offices on Nov 11 as he did not receive any official reply from the authorities. The ACC later fixed Nov 26 for the meeting and Khalidi accordingly went to the commission’s offices.

“It is not a great feeling to be stranded like this,” Khalidi wrote in his opinion piece on Friday.

“Nearly three months on, since the ACC began work on this, I hear nothing, from no one, at least officially.”