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September 29, 2008. New Delhi.
Couple of months back, I wrote an article, which was published in American Chronicle, Global Politician, Daily People’s View [in Bangladesh], Weekly Blitz [Bangladesh] and other newspapers and sites around the world. Subsequently, Mr. Kalyan Barooah, correspondent of The Assam Tribune published a report quoting some of the excerpts of my article. Later, another journalist in Assam, Nava Thakuria wrote a report for Newstrack titled ‘ULFA money in Bangladesh media’, where he categorically mentioned how people in the questioned newspaper and media group named Daily Star tried to ignore his questions and the editor was not available for comments, with the excuse of being in abroad.
But, lately I saw a response from Mahfuz Anam, editor of Daily Star [the media empire built with ULFA money], which should be definitely attended for the sake of upholding the truth against lies. I am going to give my clarifications on some of the points raised by Anam, which surely is his attempt to save the face of this media group from the attention of anti-terror organizations around the world, as ULFA is a notorious terror group in North-Eastern part of India.
Let me first quote the entire response of Mahfuz Anam for my reader’s reference. He wrote, “Your correspondent admits he based his write-up on a piece in the Internet portal called Global Politician written by one Sunita Paul titled “When the media turns into evil”. Should a journalist write a report purely based on an Internet piece without verifying anything himself. Your correspondent made no attempt to contact us for our comments nor did he do any research on his own to find out the veracity of the Internet piece.
Your reporter writes, “it (meaning ULFA) partly owns or used to own Transcom Media publisher of the prestigious Bengali daily Prothom Alo, English daily The Daily Star besides two periodicals.” The simple fact is that there is no media house called Transcom Media. The Daily Star is owned by Mediaworld, which is a registered private limited company and has six shareholders who have been the directors of the company from the outset. Prothom Alo is owned by another company called “Mediastar” with few of the same owners as Mediaworld.
Mr Kalyan Barooah selectively quotes Sunita Paul, without verifying the facts, that Latifur Rahman, one of the owners of The Star and Prothom Alo became bankrupt in the nineties when Anup Chetia gave him a “few million dollars to reorganise his collapsed business”. These are deliberate canard and outright lies. Mr Latifur Rahman was and is one of the most respected businessmen of the country and has been elected, starting from the nineties, numerous times as the president of the most prestigious business chamber of the country, namely the MCCI (Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry), a post to which he has been recently re-elected.
Transcom, as a company, was not started, as your reporter quotes Sunita Paul, in the nineties but has been in business since early seventies, after Bangladesh was born. Again, it was not Latifur Rahman who brought me to the Star, as claimed by your reporter quoting Paul’s piece. I am one of the founding directors of the company and was the founder Executive Editor of the paper at the start and became editor at the untimely death of SM Ali within less than three years of the birth of the paper.
About the writer of the Internet portal piece, Sunita Paul, suffice it to say that Paul never contacted me or any of my administrative staff while writing the story to ascertain facts about our company and its finances. To the best of my knowledge she did not talk to any senior staff or any of the other directors of the paper, or any of the other persons who could have given her some facts about The Daily Star and Prothom Alo.”
So, now it is my turn to give clarifications to the points raised by the editor of the ULFA funded newspaper.
Mahfuz Anam said, Latifur Rahman [founder of the media empire] was never bankrupt. But, I have extensively checked with various sources in Dhaka and it was clearly revealed that an industrial project named W. Rahman Jute Mills, which is located at Bangladesh’s Chandpur area was amongt the top listed load defaulting enterprises in Bangladesh and Latifur Rahman was a defaulter and was even attacked by the workers of his factory for non payment of salary, before he could manage ULFA money. Latifur Rahman’s wife is the first cousin sister of Anup Chetia [there is no word from Anam on this point].
Anam writes in his response “The simple fact is that there is no media house called Transcom Media. The Daily Star is owned by Mediaworld, which is a registered private limited company and has six shareholders who have been the directors of the company from the outset. Prothom Alo is owned by another company called “Mediastar” with few of the same owners as Mediaworld.”
But, after investigation, everyone will discover that, Transcom is the owner of all these newspapers including Daily Star when they will log on to http://www.transcombd.com and click for ‘MEDIA.’
In the Transcom website, it is clearly mentioned that “In recent years Transcom has emerged as an increasingly significant media house in Bangladesh.”
So, why Anam is shy in accepting the fact that Transcom owns all these newspapers? Just because, he too knows that the back ground story of money in Transcom was from ULFA?
Anam wrote “Transcom, as a company, was not started, as your reporter quotes Sunita Paul, in the nineties but has been in business since early seventies, after Bangladesh was born.”
Again a clean lie! If anyone will log on to the link http://www.transcombd.com and will read the ‘A brief look at history’, they will see that the company claims it to have been establsihed in 1885 as tea plantors. But, wherefrom Mahfuz got the fact of Trancom’s journey from 1970? The tea garden business is something else, like W Rahman Jute Mills as I already mentioned. Transcom became known in Bangladesh when it got the sole distributorship of Nestle products in 90s. Before that, the family was struggling with losing businesses of teas garden, jute mills etc. Latifur Rahman’s name is listed by the present rulers in Bangladesh as a suspected corrupt man, as his source of income and fund is extremely dubious.
Anam did not say a single word about Aina Broadcast Services [ABC], which is a FM band radio station, that Transcom Group bought with huge amount of money from another newspaper owner. Such dealings were mediated by Daily Star man who is now the press secretary to the Chief Avdisor of the millitary controlled government in Bangladesh. Daily Star group is continuing to influence the government in salvaging Latifur Rahman from being arrested and tried for series of financial irregularities. It was even reported in the press that, Transcom was importing unknown goods in various containers with false declaration of being milk product or electronic equipment. According to several sources, illegal supply of weapons were also conducted by Transcom under the garb of business commodity for years.
It may be mentioned here that, after getting fund from ULFA, Latifur Rahman opened several accounts with foreign banks. He managed franchisee of KFC and Pizza Hut with each US$ 1 million plus. According to investigations, no permission were ever sought from Bangladesh Central Bank for such huge transfer of money. It is learnt that the money were wire transferred to KFC and Pizza Hut from Latifur’s overseas bank accounts.
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Sunita Paul is an Indian writer, columnist, political analyst and regular contributor of American Chronicle, The Global Politician and The Asian Tribune.