Rozina Islam |  Oct 22, 2014

Latif Siddique

Tongi’s Nishat Jute Mills had some land next to Modhumita cinema hall in Motijheel. Abdul Latif Siddique, as a minister at the time, handed over a 99-year lease of the land to Chittagong Association for only Tk 1,01,101. Yet there were rules against the selling or handing over of the plot. The value of the plot hadn’t been assessed. This minister explained, “…I have married a Chittagong girl…. I feel it is my moral duty to extend humanitarian assistance to them.”

The textiles and jute ministry yesterday cancelled the lease of the land handed over in violation of all rules and regulations.

The ministry sent a letter in this regard to Chittagong Association.

A committee headed by Paban Chowdhury, director general of the prime minister’s office, was formed to assess whether the rules and regulations were followed in handing over the property of the textiles and jute ministry. On 31 August, the committee drew up a detailed report which pointed to 46 instances of irregularities committed by the minister, Abdul Latif Siddique. Topping the list was the lease of land to Chittagong Association to build a hospital.

On 12 October Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held a meeting at the textiles and jute ministry and issued directives to retrieve the property which had been handed over through irregular means. The cancellation of the land leased to Chittagong Association in Dhaka was the first step in this regard.

The letter issued by the ministry states that Nishat Jute Mills’ plot of land in Motijheel comprises 11 kathas and 13 chhataks. After it was enlisted as abandoned property, the housing and public works ministry handed this over to the textiles and jute ministry on condition that the building and the plot never be sold or leased out. The textiles and jute ministry was to use this for development programmes.

Also, a certain Jahanara Begum has filed a case regarding this land and so there was no legal scope for it to be leased out on a long term.

The letter went on to say that despite these conditions, the minister Abdul Latif Siddique instructed that the land be leased out to Chittagong Association. The lease document was made out in the name of four persons including president of the association Laila Siddique who happens to be the wife of Latif Siddique.

The pay order provided by Chittagong Association hasn’t been encashed as yet and so the lease papers haven’t come into effect. Thus the lease documents have now been cancelled.