Although one of the cooperatives closed down following lawsuits, the other one – initially run by the same fraudsters – is still operating after changing management
Md Moniruzzaman, almost 60, retired as a deputy general manager in a state-owned bank in 2011.
He met AKM Warisul Haque, 45, the chairman of a multipurpose co-operative society named People Trust Multipurpose Co-operative Society Limited (PTCL).
After they got close, Warisul Haque proposed Moniruzzaman to join PTCL as a deputy general manager with a monthly remuneration of Tk50,000.
As he had just retired, Moniruzzaman accepted the offer and joined the organisation on July 4, 2011.
After a few days, Warisul lured him to invest Tk50 lakh as a fixed deposit to PTCL with an interest rate of 18 percent. After three months, Moniruzzaman deposited Tk22.75 lakh through 10 fixed deposit receipts (FDRs) in his and his wife's name.
Moniruzzaman received interests until the end of the year. However, in early 2012, he came to know that Warisul was swindling money deposited by the customers to other accounts. He had also bought land and property in his name with the money collected from customers.
Meanwhile, the company also lingered to pay the monthly interest to Moniruzzaman along with other members of the organisation.
Furthermore, he also discovered that Warisul had swindled at least Tk200 crore in the name of another multi-purpose company – Premier Finance and Commerce Multi-Purpose Co-operative Limited (PFCL).
Meanwhile, around 80 years old Md Kanchan Ali, who had once served the Water Development Board as an engineer, also lost all of his earnings after investing in PFCL in 2009.
Lured by the then PFCL's secretary Warisul Haque, Kanchan Ali invested all of his pension money. He invested Tk48.5 lakhs as FDR and also joined the PFCL Mirpur regional office as a cashier.
After a few months, he did not get the interest as per the agreements, and the company shut down their activities out of the blue.
In 2011, Kanchan Ali filed a case against PFCL President Khan Jahangir Alam and Secretary AKM Warisul Haque with the Ramna police station.
Moniruzzaman also filed another case with the Shahbagh police station against PTCL Chairman Warisul Haque in 2014.
In both cases, the accused Warisul Haque and Khan Jahangir Alam landed in jail in 2011 and 2014. But within just one month, they secured bail from the High Court.
The High Court also postponed the trial proceedings in the first case in 2013.
Kanchan Ali's hope for justice is diminishing. For six years, the accused fraudsters have been extending the stay orders for every three or six months.
Not only in Kanchan Ali's case, but court sources also said in most of the cases of multi-purpose cooperative fraudulence, the accused managed to secure a stay order of trial process from the court.
Ershad Ali, the caretaker of Golden Plaza in Mowchak, Dhaka, told The Business Standard that PFCL used to run their activities from the 7th floor.
"One night in 2011, PFCL higher authorities left the office shutting down. In the morning, hundreds of investors and members came to the office and found it padlocked," he added.
Meanwhile, in the capital's Nahar plaza at Hatirpurl area, PTCL is still operating its activities.
"PTCL changed their management after the then chairman and secretary were sued over fraudulent activities. At present, the company has its new board," said Fayezur Rahman Khan, treasurer of the newly formed board of PFCL.
He also informed that Mesbahuddin and Abu Saeed had been made chairman and secretary of PFCL.
"We have heard the anomalies of the previous committee and they are not part of our company. But we have very little to do with the victims of the fraud," Fayezur added.
One of the victims of PFCL's fraudulence said he thought at least the court would do justice.
"I must get my money back, with the interest, through court proceedings. But now that hope is fainting. The fraudsters are so powerful that they can manage the court as well," said Kanchan Ali.
Public Prosecutor Hemayetuddin Hiron of Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court said the trial court had nothing to do with a High Court stay order.
"It is very sad that a fraudster avoids trial following High Court stay orders. On the other hand, the plaintiff loses interest to continue the case due to the stay order for the interim period. Most of the plaintiffs are reluctant to go to the High Court to vacate the stay order.
"The police do not mention the detailed address of the witnesses in most cases of section 420 of the penal code. So, we cannot present the witnesses during a trial," the prosecutor said.
Chairperson of Ain O Salish Kendra and trustee member of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust advocate ZI Khan Panna said the government pleader and also the plaintiff has to inform the court concerned to vacate the stay order.