12/16/2009, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Christian members of Heed Bangladesh accuse director of corruption

by William Gomes
More than US$ 300,000 has been embezzled. Employees sound the alarm. Projects to benefit 8.5 million poor are in jeopardy. Elgin Saha is said to have turned NGO set up to “bear witness to the Christian message” into a “family business.” Donations from around the world dry up.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Christian members of Heed Bangladesh, an NGO involved in healthcare, education and economic development, have accused Elgin Saha, the organisation’s executive director, of turning the charity into a “family business”, putting more than US$ 300,000 of donations in his own pockets.

Speaking at a press conference held on Monday in Dhaka, employees of the NGO said they want to see “justice” done and have the money returned. They supported their claim with evidence of illegalities in how the organisation’s funds were managed.

The charges are very serious indeed. Elgin Saha (pictured here with his family) is accused of placing his wife Teresa Saha, son Timon Saha, sisters and other relatives in key positions within the association in order to siphon money donated by Christians around the world.

Between July 2007 and June 2008, Heed Bangladesh received about 53,000,000 taka (US$ 770,000) from Christian-based donor associations in Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands and Great Britain.

One of the employees, David Biswas, said that the NGO was created in order to “bear witness to the message of Christ before the nation.” However over time, it has become a “family business” for Elgin Saha, and this is jeopardising projects that would benefit “8.5 million poor people.”

Another employee said that “some projects have [already] been cancelled” after donors began complaining.

“Christmas is coming and our future is in danger. We could end up in the street,” he said.

Elgin Saha has denied the allegations of corruption, blaming instead the employees of being involved in a “conspiracy” against him.

Meanwhile, the NGO Affairs Bureau is looking into the case after receiving formal complaints alleging corruption, saying that the government will take proper action shortly.

In order to make their point, Heed Bangladesh employees began a protest outside the organisation’s offices, which they say would continue until “justice is done.”

“Let us hope that Jesus will bring us good news for Christmas and save our lives,” they said.

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