PK Halder: How a scamster rose from humble beginnings to a Tk11,000cr empire
His father was a farmer and mother a school teacher. It thus fell upon his mother to regularly take him to Dighirjan Primary School in Nazirpur of Pirojpur. This would be the first place where Prashanta Kumar Halder would be showered with attention for his prodigious talent.
Meanwhile, the family lived in a small thatched house where they would survive hand to mouth.
Poverty was a constant in the life of the young Prashanta. But in the classroom, he was a star, a darling of the teachers who all doted over him and tried their best to ensure Prashanta's natural gifts would not go to waste.
His mother kept a sharp eye on her son's academic progress. And the hard work paid off. Prashanta secured a scholarship after the final exam of his primary level.
From there he was admitted to Class VI of Dighirjan High School. Once again, his extraordinary talent shone through. He received another scholarship in Class VIII, going on to secure first division with scholarship in his Secondary School Certificate exams, locals said.
By this time, news of Prashanta's talent had spread throughout his village in Pirojpur. He was the promised one and he would be the one to show all others a way out of the unceasing economic sufferings.
After passing his SSC, Prashanta admitted himself to PC College in Bagerhat. Another brilliant result followed and the doors to Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology (Buet) – the most prestigious engineering university in the country – opened for him to make yet another memorable entry.
Perhaps spurred by a restlessness inherent in the gifted, a thirst for even more challenge, or even grand blueprints for a future already chalked out, Prashanta changed tracks and enrolled for his MBA in another esteemed institution – the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), in Dhaka University.
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Armed with an MBA, the talented boy from a lower-middle class family was now ready to answer the call of his destiny and leave his humble beginnings far behind.
He joined the banking sector, his employers most likely already aware that they had just secured the hiring of one of the brightest minds in the country.
That was when Prashanta reached the fork in the road. The path he would go on to choose would leave a scar in the financial sector of the country forever.
From here on, Prashanta had begun his transformation. From here, he would become known as PK Halder.
A brief history of four scams
PK Halder's entry into banking would be a watershed. Using his engineering know-how, coupled with his finance background, Halder soon became known as the "Manager Master". This moniker was bestowed upon him given his penchant for "managing" people and securing whatever he needed.
He engineered whatever he had to in order to get what he wanted.
With only 10 years of banking experience, Halder was promoted to the post of the managing director of Reliance Finance in 2009. Such a short period to get the coveted position was unheard of in the sector. In July 2015, he joined as the MD of NRB Global Bank.
What went under the radar during this period was Halder's other ventures. Between 2009 and 2019, PK Halder was also busy birthing the biggest scandal in the country's financial sector.
In just a decade, he used four companies – International Leasing and Financial Services, People's Leasing and Financial Services, FAS Finance, and Reliance Finance – to raise Tk11,000 crore.
Although all four companies were taken over, he did not own a single share in any of those. This is because Prashanta had been a busy man.
Since his days in university, he had cultivated a legion of believers and friends, all of whom owed him something or the other.
While in university, the prodigal son often returned to his village despite what was an arduous journey back then. He claimed he did it for the love of his village, relatives and his family. When he got a job as an engineer, he also made sure to give back to his village.
By 1/11, Halder became known as "Danbir" or a philanthropist. He was at the peak of his powers and hired many people, while giving financial support to many others.
Using his own money, he even constructed a building for a school in the village, naming it after his dearest mother.
Thus, when Halder came calling, people were quick to answer. This relationship of shared love would not be long-lasting.
Meanwhile, during his stints at different banks, he made sure to hire trusted people, friends and acquaintances, all of whom would be a pawn to his game of fraud.
He seized company after company under the nose of the regulatory body, who also sometimes lent him its support. Why? Because he was the Manage Master after all.
The shares of all the companies he was taking over were bought in other people's names. His strategy was to pull the strings from the shadows.
To start drawing money in the form of loans from various institutions, he set up several organisations, most of which were only on paper.
PK Halder's mother Lilabati Halder, brother Pritish Kumar Halder, his wife Sushmita Saha, cousins Amitabh Adhikari, Abhijit Adhikari and other relatives were shown to be the owners of those organisations, many of which shared the exact same address.
He also entrusted his former colleague Ujjwal Kuman Nandi with several other companies.
Tk11,000crore in 10 years
PK Halder took control of the four companies – International Leasing and Financial Services, People's Leasing and Financial Services, FAS Finance, and Reliance Finance – by buying their shares from the stock market.
In the case of People's Leasing and Reliance Finance, some officials of Bangladesh Bank are also believed to have played a key role. Later on, the central bank would take action against several members of the previous board of directors of these two organisations for taking loans anonymously in violation of the law.
Halder never had any intention of making any of the companies better, opting instead to gut them for whatever they were worth.
International Leasing was once going well. After taking control of the company in 2015, it was brought to a collapse. Tk2,029 crore was taken out of the company using the names of 30 different companies.
Halder then used that money to buy up more shares in the other three organisations he had set his eyes on.
In 2015, Halder's company Anan Chemical took control of People's Leasing. The shares were bought through FAS Capital Management and Reliance Brokerage.
Hiding the true buyer under layers and layers of other companies, Halder was getting away with financial murder.
He embezzled the money in various ways, settling them in Canada and India.
In 2018, along with his brother Pritish Halder, he opened a company in India called Hal Trip Technology, with their office located in Mahajati Sadan in Kolkata.
In Canada, he founded P&L Hall Holding Inc in 2014 making his brother and his wife Sushmita Saha the directors.
Of disgraceful exits
PK Halder's first disgraceful exit did not come in the hands of law enforcers. In fact, it was back in his beloved village.
Around fifteen years ago, he had twice become president of the school managing committee of Dighirjan High School, recalled the former head teacher of the school.
During his second tenure, at a meeting presided by Halder, a local influential man, Amjad Hossain, entered suddenly and started to berate Halder.
At the same time, he was also hit, with a shoe thrown at him. None came forward to protect Halder, said a college teacher of the area seeking anonymity.
For Halder, this was a betrayal by the people he loved and held dearest.
Having received this shock, Halder left the village, never to return. He also cut all communications with the locals, according to the college teacher.
By this time, his mother had retired from her teaching job. Following the incident, Halder's whole family, including his parents, left the country permanently.
Halder would go on to settle in the capital and continue emptying the coffers of the four companies.
But this would not go on for long.
Halder's name came to the fore during the recent anti-casino operation, though he had been in the limelight for a long time.
Halder is one of the 43 people against whom the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) started its inquiry.
Halder fled the country despite the ACC ban, even though he was directed to appear for questioning.
He escaped to India, where he adopted the name Shivashankar and continued his lavish life and misdeeds. In the guise of Shivshankar, he obtained the ration card of the government of West Bengal, voter identity card of India, identity card of income tax department, identity card of citizenship etc.
He was arrested in India on Saturday after three long years.
After his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) of the Indian government, his run has finally come to a close.
In a statement, the ED said that Halder and his associates had opened several businesses in West Bengal through these fake identities. Apart from several houses in the elite area of Kolkata, Halder also bought land in different places.
It seemed that Halder had never changed. Only the location of his scams had.