The BNP-nominated mayoral candidate in the Dhaka North City Corporation elections, Tabith Awal, has withheld information about his Singapore-based company in his affidavit to the Election Commision (EC) of Bangladesh. Business registry documents obtained by Netra News show Tabith as one of the three owner-directors of NFM Energy (Singapore) PTE. LTD. The two other owners are his brothers. Though the company has millions of dollars of assets and liabilities, Tabith did not include its name in his disclosure to the EC, in likely violation of Bangladeshi electoral laws and regulations.
NFM Energy (Singapore) PTE. LTD., which was incorporated in Singapore in 2008, has a total of 1000 shares, with Tabith owning 340 shares while his two brothers Tafsir Awal and Tajwar Awal own 330 shares each. The Awal brothers, listed in the business registry documents as US citizens, are also the directors of the company. There is a fourth non-shareholder director, who is a Singapore citizen.
According to the documents obtained from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) of Singapore, NFM Energy (Singapore) PTE. LTD. is involved in “trading in primary products and processed food” and “investment in various energy related companies”. The latest financial statement of the company shows that it has total assets of USD 2,143,267 and liabilities of USD 2,627,194. Netra News has seen evidence that the company holds a significant stake in Bangladesh Petrochemical Company Limited (BPCL), and Tajwar Awal represents NFM Energy (Singapore) as a director in the BPCL board. BPCL is not included in the list of 37 companies that Tabith Awal disclosed to the EC as his business interests.
Netra News also found a defunct company in the Panamanian business registry that lists Tabith Awal as the treasurer and director. The company, Multimode International SA, had Tabith’s father Abdul Awal Mintoo as the president and Tafsir Awal as one of the directors. The Awal family’s name previously came up in relation to a Bermuda-based company, NFM Energy Limited, which was part of the “Paradise Papers” leak published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
When asked by Netra News to explain why he did not include NFM Energy (Singapore) PTE. LTD. in his disclosure to the EC, Tabith Awal responded that his lawyers prepared the disclosure affidavit based on applicable laws and regulations, “It was all created by my lawyers. [They] must have done it after looking at laws and requirements.” He also confirmed that NFM Energy (Singapore) PTE. LTD. has a stake in Bangladesh Petrochemical Company Limited (BPCL). He said he does not have a controlling interest in any other foreign company apart from NFM Energy (Singapore) PTE. LTD.
Tabith, however, appeared surprised when he was asked about the defunct Panama-based company Multimode International SA, “I have no idea about that! Is my name there?”
When asked by Netra News for a comment, BNP’s senior joint secretary general, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, said he was hearing about the issue for the very first time and could not comment without obtaining more details.
Rafiqul Islam, one of the five election commiosners at the EC, confirmed to Netra News that candidates are supposed to disclose all their assets, liabilities and business interests in and outside Bangladesh.●