Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Airline sues regulator over corruption

Company files case after failing to get its 'unfit carrier' cleared, counter Caab

The owner of a private airline has filed a bribery case against an official of the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh, but Caab officials are saying that the case is false and has been filed to harass their colleague because he did not give a no-objection certificate to an unfit aircraft.

Rupashi Bangla Airlines Ltd acquired a provisional licence to operate flights in September 2008, but could not start operation in over three years because it could not import a single aircraft meeting the requirements of Caab, although the provisional licence was extended thrice, according to Caab documents.

Rupashi Bangla was required to own at least two aircraft within the provisional period meeting required standards for getting the final permission to operate as a passenger carrying airline.

During the period the company applied for technical clearance for 17 different types of aircraft, none of which got clearance because neither the company could provide all required original documents nor did the aircraft meet the required standards.

"Due to frequent change of aircraft for purchasing and placing of incomplete proposals, Rupashi Bangla caused loss of huge government work hours of Caab officials," said a top Caab official wishing anonymity.

On the other hand, Rupashi Bangla Managing Director Afzal Hossain said he filed the case because Caab Deputy Director Golam Sarwar had demanded Tk 10 lakh bribe in exchange for issuance of a no-objection certificate (NOC).

Afzal claimed that he did not get the clearance although his airline complied with all requirements.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is now investigating the case being ordered by Metropolitan Sessions Judge's Court, Dhaka with which Afzal lodged the complaint on July 31 last year.

The immediate past investigation officer (IO) of the case, ACC Deputy Assistant Director Nazim Uddin, summoned eight top and mid- ranking Caab officials including its chairman and the director of flight safety and regulations, to the commission in December last year, although the case is against only one official.

Some of the summoned officials alleged that Nazim did not tell them whether the other seven officials were being accused or being summoned as witnesses.

"Nazim gave us a questionnaire to answer. After giving the answers we asked for copies of what we wrote, but the IO refused to give copies," one of the summoned officials told The Daily Star wishing anonymity.

Nazim said he did everything following ACC rules and regulations.

Caab sources said when their top officials brought the matter to the notice of ACC top officials they rebuked Nazim and replaced him by ACC Deputy Director Benzir Ahmed as the IO. Contacted recently Benzir said he is now studying the case.

The case statement says that Golam Sarwar assured Afzal of awarding an NOC for importing an aircraft from the Philippines in May 2010 if he was bribed.

It also claims Sarwar told Afzal that he would pocket Tk 5 lakh while the rest of the bribe would be given to his director to earn his approval. But Afzal refused to bribe, the case statement adds.

In December 2010, Rupashi Bangla again applied for an NOC for importing two aircraft from a Philippines-based airline.

Following the application, three Caab inspectors inspected the aircraft in May 2011, but the inspection results were not satisfactory. The inspectors were not even provided with the original copies of two key documents -- Certificate of Registration and Certificate of Airworthiness.

But on May 29, 2011, one of the aircraft that failed inspection landed at Chittagong Shah Amanat Airport without flight clearance, violating Bangladesh air space and Caab rules, an incident that irked all related government agencies.

After the incident Caab contacted the Philippines Civil Aviation and arranged for the unauthorised aircraft's return.

Days later the Directorate of Air Defence of Bangladesh Air Force wrote to Caab saying Rupashi Bangla should not be allowed to operate flights.

Afzal, however, denied all allegations and claimed that despite signing aircraft purchase agreement with different companies he could not buy those as Caab intentionally delayed in giving him necessary clearances.

He also said although in the original case he accused only one of seeking bribe, in his statement to the ACC he named nine officials including the Caab chairman, and the director of flight safety and regulations, all of whom allegedly demanded bribe from him.

He also accused them of causing his financial loss due to forcible return of the aircraft to the Philippines.

Asked why he did not file a petition with a higher court against Caab for sending back the aircraft, he said he tried "but a lawyer demanded a huge amount of money". He also said as the next two days were government holidays, by the time he could file the petition, the aircraft would have already been sent back.

Rupashi Bangla was first awarded the provisional licence to operate flights after certification from the registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms that the company has a paid up capital of Tk 20 crore which is Caab's required amount for issuance of the licence.


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