Monday, October 19, 2009

A purchase shrouded in question

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A ruling Awami League lawmaker, whose annual income was around Tk 1 lakh before the election less than 10 months ago, has bought a luxury minivan for Tk 22 lakh.

M Meraj Uddin Mollah, MP from Rajshahi-3 (Paba-Mohonpur) constituency, splashed out on a Toyota Noah at a showroom in Chittagong on September 29.

The next day, he spent around Tk 60,000 more to register the multi-purpose vehicle with Bangladesh Road Transport Authority, Rajshahi, say registration documents obtained by The Daily Star.

In an affidavit attached to his nomination papers for the December 29 general election, Meraj claimed he is a farmer by profession and that his income from farming is around Tk 75,000 a year.

An additional Tk 36,000 earned from house rents adds up to Tk 1.11 lakh a year.

According to the affidavit, Meraj owns movable and immovable property worth Tk 6.21 lakh. Those include 28 bighas of land valued at Tk 4.06 lakh.

Talking to The Daily Star, Meraj Mollah claimed a businessman by the name of Subhash Kumar Mondal had given him Tk 15 lakh to buy the vehicle.

"The rest of the amount came from some other persons," he said without disclosing the donors' identity.

"Subhash was a baby boy when Razakars (collaborators) killed his father during the Liberation War. It was I who brought him up. Now that he's a rich man by the grace of almighty Allah, he has given me the money I needed to buy the car," he added.

Contacted by The Daily Star yesterday, Subhash, a Chapainawabganj-based businessman, first said he had lent the money to the MP.

But when this correspondent told him about the MP's claim that he had given him (Meraj) the amount for good, Subhash immediately corrected himself: "Whatever the MP says is the case."

Besides buying the fancy minivan, the lawmaker had his three-storey house renovated and re-fitted at a cost of over Tk 10 lakh, said locals.

He however claims he has spent Tk 5 lakh to give his Nawhata house a makeover.

"I'm keeping a record of all the money I have received from others. I can show the list if taxmen or anyone else want," he said.

Replying to a query, Meraj said, "Why should I need to borrow money? People willingly gave me around Tk 40 lakh before the election.

"I don't squeeze a penny out of anyone and neither do I borrow. They give me money out of love for me."

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