Dhaka,  Thursday
18 July 2024

DG held hostage Syndicate loots BSRI

Imran Ali, Dhaka

Published: 07:53, 25 June 2024

DG held hostage Syndicate loots BSRI

Photo: Collected

Serious allegations of embezzlement amounting to around one hundred crore taka have surfaced against officials at the Bangladesh Sugarcrop Research Institute, linked to the accidental death of the former chief scientific officer in 2016. Dr. Abdullah, the chief scientific officer at the time, tragically lost his life in an incident involving the car of the then Director General, Dr. Khalilur Rahman. It is alleged that this incident led to Dr. Rahman being coerced by a syndicate led by Hasibur to cover up the matter, resulting in misappropriation of project funds and systematic looting of the institute located in Ishwardi, Pabna.

With Director General Omar Ali's tenure nearing completion, efforts by the syndicate to secure his extension have caused dissatisfaction among institute employees. Calls for an investigation into the corrupt practices of this syndicate and demands for punitive action have been formally submitted to the President. The situation has prompted widespread discontent and a plea for swift and decisive action to address the allegations of corruption and mismanagement within the Bangladesh Sugarcrop Research Institute.

Regarding the incident involving the accidental death of the chief scientific officer Dr. Abdullah in 2016, Director General Omar Ali has stated, "I have a few more days to work. Many may express dissatisfaction with these matters. I cannot comment on what transpired at that time. During my tenure, I made efforts to combat corruption."

In response to queries about his future at the institute, Omar Ali remarked, "I have no desire to stay longer. Whether the government decides otherwise is another matter. I am unaware of who is advocating for what reasons."

According to sources familiar with the matter, in 2016, the then Director General Khalilur Rahman was driving within the institute premises with Amjad Hossain and Dr. Samjit Kumar Pal as passengers. During this drive, the car struck and fatally injured Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Abdullah.

Following the incident, Hasibur and other officials allegedly took actions to conceal the incident, including attempting to transport the deceased to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital via ambulance and subsequently to Natore Lalpur before returning to the institute. The family was reportedly persuaded against pursuing legal action or conducting a postmortem, accompanied by efforts to silence influential figures, including significant expenditures related to a 67crore taka integrated research project.

Following the incident involving Dr. Abdullah's tragic death, his family initially received financial support and were employed as daily attendants on various projects. However, this support was abruptly halted after a few days. Exploiting the situation, a group led by Hasibur allegedly took advantage of Director General Khalilur Rahman's vulnerable position and initiated corruption across multiple projects. They reportedly coerced Rahman into compliance through fear tactics, even using project funds for personal international travel.

Unnamed officials have revealed that after Khalilur Rahman's retirement, Amjad Hossain assumed the position of Director General. Dr. Amjad  was also in the car during the incident, leading the syndicate to treat him as a hostage of sorts. Dr. Samjit Kumar Pal, another occupant of the car, allegedly derived substantial benefits through the syndicate's influence. The continuous threats and intimidation eventually took a toll, leading to Pal's demise from cardiac arrest.

Officials have disclosed that since 2016, projects worth at least 100 crore taka have been undertaken over the past eight years at the Bangladesh Sugarcrop Research Institute. Among these, 67 crore taka were allocated for cooperative research projects, with 20 crore taka designated for an sugarcane farming production project in the Rangpur region. An additional 30 crore taka were reportedly allocated for various smaller projects.

The syndicate, led by Hasibur, has allegedly continued to siphon off government funds due to their influence over the Director General. Shockingly, it is claimed that Hasibur misappropriated 12 lakhs taka from the Agricultural Research Council.

Officials further assert that the syndicate is vigorously campaigning to extend the tenure of the current Director General, lobbying extensively across different platforms starting from the ministry. Despite any reluctance from the Director General himself, the syndicate is actively working to secure his continuation in office. The situation highlights serious concerns over corruption and misconduct within the institution, prompting calls for urgent intervention and accountability measures.

It has been uncovered that at the Bangladesh Sugarcrop Research Institute, a syndicate is allegedly managed by Chief Scientific Officer and Department Head Hasibur Rahman, alongside Chief Scientific Officer (current duty) and Administration Department Head Abu Taher Sohail. They are supported by several assistants including Tofail Ahmed, who holds the role of Chief Scientific Officer and also serves as Divisional Head of the Administration Division. Other members implicated in the syndicate include Aminul Haque, Shariful Islam, SM Rezaul Karim, Abdul Azim, Rashedur Rahman Rajiv, and Sanjit Mandal, who all hold scientific officer positions with varying responsibilities.

Abdullah Baki, as Head of the Accounts and Audit Department, reportedly played a crucial role by approving and sealing all bill vouchers. Following his approval, these vouchers were subsequently approved by the Director General.

Former chief scientific officer Dr. Nurul Kashem has boldly stated that corruption within the institution is widely recognized, but speaking out against it often results in dismissal, transfer, or even job loss, creating an atmosphere of fear and silence among employees.

Dr. Kashem highlighted that the syndicate has been engaged in various irregularities for an extended period. Following Dr. Abdullah's death, substantial sums of money were reportedly expended, with syndicate members allegedly using these funds for international travel.

It is alleged that Hasibur, the central figure in the syndicate, has amassed wealth amounting to at least fifty crores taka. Additionally, former Director General Amjad Hossain is also implicated, purportedly embezzling ten crore rupees during his tenure from 2019 to 2022.

Chief Scientific Officer and Head of Department Hasibur Rahman has responded to allegations by stating, "In reality, I have been involved in Awami League politics. The current government is also in power, and as a result, there are individuals targeting me. They are making baseless accusations against me and some of my colleagues."

Tofail Ahmed, currently serving as Chief Scientific Officer and heading the Administration Department in an additional capacity, commented that criticisms often accompany efforts to enact positive change. He refuted the allegations, asserting that they are unfounded.