Bangladesh Lawmaker Sues Attorney for Questioning his Wealth

Published: 23 February 2023

Abdus GolapMohammed Abdus Sobhan Miah (R) (Photo: Dr. Abdus Sobhan Golap MP/Facebook)

By Zulkarnain Saer Khan

An embattled member of the Bangladesh Parliament has filed a lawsuit demanding US$52 million in damages from an attorney who was seeking an investigation into the lawmaker’s suspected financial irregularities first reported by OCCRP in January.

MP Mohammed Abdus Sobhan Miah filed suit in Dhaka on February 16, accusing former International Crimes Tribunal prosecutor Saydul Haque Sumon of defamation.

Sumon, a famed human rights attorney, in January asked the national Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate Miah’s US$4 million investment in New York City residential properties while earning no more than $1,000 per month as a government official in Bangladesh.

The commission is currently reviewing the complaint to determine if it has jurisdiction for a full investigation. Sumon’s complaint also covered OCCRP’s finding that Miah was a dual U.S.-Bangladesh citizen when he ran for a parliamentary seat. Bangladesh law prohibits dual citizens from holding elected office.

In court papers, Miah’s attorney spotlights the politician’s loyal service to the ruling Awami League political party and close relationship with the head of the party, telling the court that “as honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is busy with various important political and state affairs, it is not possible for him [Miah] to appear in the learned court and file a lawsuit” in person.

Miah, who is also known as Golap, was a longtime personal aide and special assistant to Hasina before standing for election in 2018. The lawsuit accuses Sumon of defaming not only Miah but also Sheikh Hasina and all of the government of Bangladesh.

The lawsuit names only Sumon as a defendant, accusing him of making “false, fabricated and baseless” statements to Bangladesh media, but also makes unsubstantiated allegations about OCCRP.

Without offering a proof, Miah claims that OCCRP is “controlled and managed under the auspices of the Bangladeshi political organization Jamaat-BNP,” the opposition political party. The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project is a U.S.-registered and donor-supported non-profit global journalism organization with no ties to Jamaat-BNP or any other political party.

Miah’s lawsuit does not directly address the OCCRP’s report, which was based on New York City property ownership records showing that Miah and his wife have bought eight condominium units and co-op apartments for cash and one house using a small mortgage in the New York City borough of Queens since 2014. Miah failed to disclose any offshore properties in a sworn financial disclosure statement filed when he declared for election in 2018.

In court papers Miah ignores the bulk of his investments, saying only that he has bought no property in New York since his election to Parliament in 2018. In fact, property records show that the Miahs bought a house at 35-51 71st Street on June 12, 2019, months after his election.

While ignoring his other investments, Miah for the first time offered a vague explanation of the source of his money. The lawsuit says “the plaintiff went to America in the year 1985 to pursue his higher degree. After completing his education, he has earned some wealth by working in America at a high salary, but he has not had any economic dealings with America since he surrendered his American passport on 15/11/2018.”

OCCRP has been unable to find any such “high salary” employment history for Miah, who did odd jobs, clerked in a drug store, delivered pizzas and drove a cab in New York before permanently returning to Bangladesh to become Sheikh Hasina’s special assistant in 2009.

According to the federal register records, Miah's passport was revoked on August 15, 2019, after he filed sworn financial disclosure statements in declaring his candidacy for election. He also claimed to have surrendered his U.S. passport on November 15, 2018, but it appears that he has been engaged in financial activities with the U.S. at least until September 2021.