As many as 266 cooperative societies have disappeared after robbing their customers off around Tk 40.68 billion, reveals an official investigation.
A recent report of the Directorate of Cooperatves said this money has been embezzled since 2008.
Much more than the aforesaid amount had been raised from the customers who were lured with high rates of profit, officials of the directorate said. Most of these societies also closed down their offices.
Grameen Multipurpose Co-Operative Society took Tk 1 million from one R Hossain in 2009 promising a profit of 24 per cent. He got profit in the first year, but afterwards he lost the capital even, Hossain told Prothom Alo.
The issue was discussed in a meeting of the parliamentary standing committee on local government, rural development and cooperatives ministries recently.
Investigations are being acrried out against a number of societies. The committee would recommend stern actions agaisnt the culprits, said Fazle Hossain Badshah, a member of the parliamentary panel.
As per law, no organisation but the banks can collect deposits. Only cooperatives societies can receieve money, but the government has turned a blind eye to such platforms' irregularities, letting the likes of ITCL and Jubok to cheat the customers.
According to Directorate of Cooperatves data, there are 63,311 cooperative societies in the country.
Among them, 266 have been charged with irregularities. Of them 221 are multipurpose cooperatives societies, 24 are savings and credit societies and 21 are other societies.
The authorities have formed a committee to recover the money. They have also urged the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to take steps to this end.
State minister for rural development and cooperatives Md Masiur Rahman said, "Once the organisation gets bigger, disputes over money start. A quarter then makes away with the money, giving us no chance to take any steps. That is why we are bringing changes to the cooperatives law."
Destiny Multipurpose Co-Operative Society took Tk 14.58 billion from its members while the others took Tk 26.10 billion.
A number of societies in Dhaka division that cheated their members were approved by Md Iqbal Hossain, the principal of Cooperatives Academy who was previously a joint registrar of Dhaka division.
He, however, claimed that he approved the societies as per rules and the authorities cannot be blamed for the societies' wrongdoings. A case was later filed by the ACC against him for giving Destiny 'undue advantages'.
"Such crimes have certainly been carried out in connivance with the directorate officials. Investigations will surely be able to track down influential people behind this as well," said Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) executive director Iftekharuzzaman.
He demanded exemplary punishment to the culprits and steps to restructure the Directorate of Cooperatves.