Monday, May 2, 2016

The '$300 million plot?' - lies, damn lies and Bangladesh political parties

In Bangladesh politics, there is minimal - if any - respect for basic facts.

This is particularly evident by the way in which politicians and the media have written and talked about the United States case involving the conviction and sentencing of three men involved in a bribery plot to obtain confidential information from the FBI.

The Awami League's difficulty with the truth
On the Awami League side, we first had the basic misrepresentations made by Sajeeb Wazed, the son of the Bangladesh prime minister in his various Facebook posts. 

Second, we have the way in which pro-Awami Leaguers - and the media - have written about the case

Thirdly, most recently we have the prime minister herself. The Bangladesh Observer, reported the following:
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday vowed to bring to justice those who conspired both at home and abroad to abduct and kill her son Sajeeb Wazed Joy in the USA.

"The conspiracy has been proved in the USA court," she told a civic rally arranged at Kotalipara Sheikh Lutfar Rahman Ideal Government College ground in the afternoon.

Referring to a USA court judgement, Hasina said an FBI official and a BNP leader have been sentenced to jail for their involvement in hatching a plot to abduct and kill Joy, also the PM’s ICT Affairs Adviser.
Assuming this to be an accurate news report, what the prime minister said was completely inaccurate; any claim that the US court had held or had ruled that there was a conspiracy to abduct and kill Joy is simply untrue.

The court convicted and sentenced the three men on bribery charges and there was never any charges relating to attempting to kidnap/hurt/kill any person. It is correct that the FBI had some evidence that Rizvi sought to kidnap and hurt Wazed, but the court, in the course of sentencing, ruled that it did not believe the evidence and dismissed it. It is also the case that the FBI did not present in the court any evidence that Shafiq Rahman or any other person was involved in any plan of Ahmed's to hurt Wazed.

If the prime minister wanted to use the US case to justify its investigation into the so-called 'plot to kill Joy', this is what she should have said - if at least she wanted to be accurate about the US case.
'A man in the United States pleaded guilty to bribing an FBI agent to obtain financial and other information about my son Sajeeb. During the investigation, the FBI found evidence that suggested that one of the reasons this man sought the information was to kidnap and harm him. The man was never prosecuted for this offence. Moreover the Judge during sentencing ruled that he did not believe that particular evidence. However, there was some evidence, and the Bangladesh government wants to look into this matter to see if there is any further evidence to support the claim that Ahmed planned to hurt my son, and see whether other people were involved.' 
However, it is my calculation that the reason why the Awami League leaders have to misrepresent and misconstrue the US case so much is because they have no further evidence to support its claim of a plot to kill the prime minister's son

The BNP's difficulty with the truth.
But of course it is not just the Awami League. The BNP have now got into the act.

On Sunday, May day, Khaleda Zia , the leader of the BNP, is reported to have said:
“The [US] case files say there is $300 million, which is equal to Tk 25 billion, in an account of the prime minister’s son. 
Where did this money come from? What is the source of this money? ... 
The court had its suspicion over $300 million or Tk 25 billion in his (Joy’s) account. The FBI found the money in investigation.

If you do not release [Shafik Rehman and Mahmudur Rahman], if you are the true prime minister of the people, then your son Joy needs o be questioned in custody about where he got this $300 million or Tk 25 billion.”

“Is this money legal?” 
Well, the case files do not state that there is '$300 million' in the 'account of the prime minister's son'.

The case records only say that there was an FBI memorandum relating to Sajeeb Wazed in which the words '$300 million' were written. It does not say anything more than that. Whilst it is possible that Khaleda is right that the document states that this money is in Wazed's account, it is much more likely not to be the case.

The reason for this is that  had Wazed's accounts really contained this amount of money, the US authorities would surely have taken action against him. Moreover, if is was written in the FBI memorandum that Wazed has this money in the bank, Shafik Rehman would immediately have published it - since this clearly would be sensational news.