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Bangladesh government snubs Zia on money disclosure

Dhaka, Aug 2 (IANS) Bangladesh’s caretaker government has snubbed the country’s last elected prime minister, Khaleda Zia, refusing to accept tax arrears that would regularize her hitherto undisclosed money.

Citing procedures, and the fact that she is being probed by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the National Board of Revenue (NBR) Wednesday refused to entertain Zia’s request to legalise her undisclosed money under the amnesty offered to tax evaders and black money holders.

The NBR rejected the application Zia had made on the ground that tax on the money was not paid in line with proper official procedures.

Zia, who ruled the country twice, in 1991-96 and in 2001-06, paid around Taka 3.3 million ($550,000 approximately) in tax on a Taka 13.3 million ($2.3 million) of “undisclosed money”.

But NBR chief Badiur Rahman said the tax should have been paid through the prescribed form, which was missing.

Other NBR officials said Zia was barred from availing the immunity because she is now under investigation by ACC.

According to a statutory regulatory order of the revenue board issued June 5, the money-whitening facility will not be applicable for tax evaders against whom legal procedures were underway.

However, Zia’s lawyer Ahmed Aazam Khan maintained that he paid the tax following the government directives.

“If any procedural mistakes took place in paying the tax, it can be corrected later as the time for money whitening has been extended,” he said.

Khan is also to submit papers for wealth tax by Aug 6, the deadline fixed for both Zia and her political rival, Sheikh Hasina.

Hasina, out from jail on bail in an extortion case last week, Wednesday challenged the ACC directive before Dhaka High Court saying she could not comply till she had access to documents denied to her by Bangladesh Bank, the country’s central bank.

Both women leaders have accused the government of Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed of harassing them with politically motivated actions, court cases and inciting leaders and workers of their parties to rebel against them.