Credit card

Loan scam: BB imposes credit card ban on Sikders

Yesterday, the Bank of Bangladesh has banned 10 members of the Sikder family and two officials Sikder group to use international credit cards for two years because they have exceeded their credit card limit of the National Bank Ltd, in flagrant violation of banking rules.

The lender gave them $10,580,000 (about Tk 91 crore) violating the credit card limit set by the central bank.

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They had spent the sum from 2017 to 2021 and each of them used multiple credit cards issued by NBL, according to a BB probe.

According to BB rules, a Bangladeshi citizen cannot spend more than $12,000 [around Tk 10.34 lakh] within a year outside the country using either their credit card or cash. During the aforementioned years, the 12 people were legally allowed to spend $720,000 (about Tk 6.20 crore) with their credit cards.

Of the 12 banned, Rick Haque Sikder and Ron Haque Sikder, sons of former NBL President Zainul Haque Sikder, are directors of the NBL.

The other eight members of the Sikder family are: Momtazul Haque, Dipu Haque Sikder, Lisa Fatema Haque, Monica Sikder Khan, Mandy Sikder, Zefri Sikder, Shon Haque Sikder and John Haque Sikder. The two leaders of the Sikder group are Syed Kamrul Islam and Varvara Zorina.

The central bank yesterday wrote to all lenders, including NBL, asking them not to issue them international credit cards.

Contacted, Md Serajul Islam, Spokesman and Executive Director of BB, said 12 people broke the rules of how credit cards work, which was later proven by the central bank.

NBL was also asked to stop the operation of the currency accounts of Rick, Ron and Momtazul.

In January, the central bank fined NBL Tk 55 lakh for attempting to hide cardholder loan details.

In a separate move, Bangladesh Bank yesterday revoked the Authorized Reseller (AD) license of NBL’s West Dhanmondi branch, meaning the bank would not be able to handle foreign exchange-related activities, such as l export and import.

The BB investigation found that NBL operated a foreign exchange account for ZH Sikder Women’s Medical College in violation of the rules.

The account was opened at the NBL branch in Dilkusha which was later transferred to the West Dhanmondi branch in violation of the Foreign Exchange Guidelines-2018.

Dilkusha branch will be strictly controlled by the central bank, according to letter BB.

Despite repeated attempts, this correspondent could not reach NBL chief executive Md Mehmood Husain for comment.

Zainul Haque Sikder, who died on February 10 last year, and his family members began to increase their influence on the NBL board after 2009 plagued the bank with malfeasance, sources said.

Zainul was President of the NBL for 12 consecutive years. His wife Monowara Sikder is now chairperson, while their sons Rick, Ron and daughter Parveen Haque Sikder sit on the 12-member board.

NBL loan defaults amounted to Tk 5,955 crore in December last year, up 186 per cent year-on-year, BB data showed. Non-performing loans to the bank was Tk 388 crore in 2009. The bank also faced a capital shortfall of Tk 457 crore last year.