Khaleda Zia's regime: Crores of money from smuggling forest timber reached the Prime Minister's Office and Hawa Bhaban

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Published on November 13, 2022
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Between 2001 and 2006, the influential BNP-Jamaat leaders and activities, who were close to Hawa Bhaban, deforested thousands of hectares of land indiscriminately and grabbed the forests across the country. With the help of Chief Conservators of Forests, Munshi Anwarul (2004-2005) and Osman Gani (2005-2006), the BNP-Jamaat ring smuggled timber and grabbed forest land to earn thousands of crores of taka. Several BNP MPs, ministers, Prime Minister's Office, and Hawa Bhaban were directly involved in such looting and anomalies. 

During the caretaker government in 2007, several national dailies, including the Dainik Sangbad on July 9, the Ittefaq on June 1 and the Jugantor on March 12 and July 22, published reports about it.

In early 2006, BNP leaders disbursed crores of taka among themselves by cutting down government trees through Lakshmipur's former Divisional Forest Conservator Shamsul Haque and then Chief Forest Conservator Osman Gani. They made all arrangement at a very low price before submitting the tender. Even later, they did not allow anyone other than party men to participate in the biding process.

According to Forest Office sources, more than 25 thousand old trees were sold in 204 lots in Sadar, Ramganj, Raigati, and Raipur upazila. In Ramganj, BNP leader and state minister Ziaul Haque Zia's Seven Star Army showed the price of 3,500 old trees Tk 26.32 lakh instead of around Tk 5 crore. BNP miscreants and followers of Raipur BNP leader and MP Abul Khair Bhuiyan bought 623 old trees worth Tk one crore for only Tk 72,000.

Supporters of BNP leader Shahiduddin Chowdhury Annie bought 2,500 trees in 47 lots in Lakshmipur and more than 1,500 trees in 16 lots in the Sonapur road area for only Tk 28 lakh. But the market price was more than Tk 5 crore. This is how the BNP leaders looted government resources worth crores of taka. Many of them were closely linked to Hawa Bhaban, and many had connections up to the Prime Minister's Office. Due to this looting, the government lost crores of money in revenue.

During the caretaker government in 2007, the joint force arrested forest chief Osman Gani. He bribed some top officials of the BNP-Jamaat government's Forest and Environment Minister and Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's office to become the chief forest conservator. In return, he promised BNP leaders to supply government timber worth hundreds of crores of money at cheap prices. Later, BNP's top ministers, MPs and leaders cleared government forests worth hundreds of crores of taka through illegal means.

Munshi Anwar was the Forest Chief before the tenure of Forest King Osman Gani. He also regularly paid bribes to BNP leaders. He confessed to the joint forces that he had to go to the residence of two forest ministers Tariqul Islam and Shajahan Siraj, and pay a bribe of Tk 6 lakh in cash every month. Also, he had to pay Tk 1 lakh to the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Forest Department Nazimuddin Alam.

From 2004 to 2005, Munshi Anwarul Islam, Chief Conservator of Forests, also said that Harris Chowdhury, political secretary of BNP-Jamaat government Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, collected Tk 6 lakh per month as extortion. In the second week of the month, a bag of money would be handed over to a car in Banani, after which Harris Chowdhury would confirm the receipt of the money over the phone.

Munshi Anwarul also said that after becoming the head of the forest department, the son of the forest minister Shajahan Siraj demanded extortion of Tk 50 lakh from him on the instructions of Giasuddin Al Mamun. Then he collected the money and sent it Tarique Rahman's to Hawa Bhaban, said the former forest chief.