Monday, November 3, 2014

Daily Star misfires on Jamaat lobbying article

The Daily Star has a story on its front page which fails in almost every way to meet the newspaper's normally high editorial standards.

The story is titled, '$25m helped, not that much' and claims that Mir Qasem Ali struck a $25 million deal with with a US lobby company, which it said was unlawful since there had been no registration of the contract as required by US law. The paper says that it has a copy of the contract, and the only person it quotes is an anoymous 'Washingon-based journalist' to say that the amount is 'huge' and that it was unlawful

You know something is wrong with an article as soon as you see a quote from an anonymous journalist in a context where there is absolutely no reason at all for the person to be anonymous. Indeed, it is not clear why a 'Washington journalist' was in any way appropriate person to speak on this issue. What expertise does any old Washington based jouranlist have? Surely a regulator, or a lawyer who deals with the law relating to lobbyists, would have been appropriate - and then there would be no reason for that person to be anonymous.

Also, of course there is the failure to get any comment from the Jamaat or the lobbying company alleged to have received $25 million.*

However, these are the least of the problems with the article.

I happen to know about this issue since New Age was the first newspaper to investigate and break the actual news of the extent of lobbying by Mir Quassem Ali.

You can read both the articles published by New Age here. 

These articles showed that rather than having spent $25 million before October 2011, Mir Quassem Ali and his brother Mir Masum Ali had spent $310,000 (Tk 24 million) on the lobbying firm Cassidy and associates. This is not an insignificant amount, but it is very far indeed from $25 million.

The information came from publicly accessible web-based databases -, Sunlight Foundation and the one set up by the US Senate - which set out all details of any lobbying contract made by every firm. These disclosures are required by law - the Lobbying Disclosure Act 1995.

One can now look at these contracts upto to 2013. Here are the details of Mir Masum Ali's contracts which shows that between 2011 and 2013 he spent $370,000. And here are the details of Mir Quasem Ali's contracts which show that in 2010 and 2011, he spent $180,000. That is a total of $550,000. So since the New Age article was written, they have spent another $240,000.

It is interesting to note that the Daily Star article does not even mention the Lobbying Disclosure Act 1995, and the requirement it imposes upon all lobbyists, and does not quote at all from the databases. (It should be noted that the paper does refer to the 1938 Foreign Registration Act, more on that in a moment.)

So where does the $25 million allegation come from. There is a copy of this contract that I have seen, but it is almost certainly fraudulent. This could only be a genuine contract if Cassidy and associates, a well known and respected lobbying firm in Washington, were willing to conspire with Mir Quassem Ali or his brother to break the law and to seriously compromise its reputation. It seems highly unlikely.

Moreover, the former law minister Shafique Ahmed has in the past also mentioned this sum of money being spent by the Jamaat on lobbying - and clearly if there was any truth to it he would have given it to the US authorities for them to take action against the lobbyists.

The Daily Star should have recognised that there was something wrong with the alleged $25 million contract, when it also reported in the same article that there had been a further contract for $50,000. So first of all the brothers pay $25 million, and then they give $50,000? Does that not seem odd at all.

It should be noted that  $50,000 contract in 2014 mentioned by the Daily Star is not mentioned in any of the lobbying databases - though it is possible that this is because the databases are not upto date.

Daily Star should do its research, and at the very least see what has already been written, before it writes this kind of allegation - even when it is against the Jamaat, the easiest of targets these days.

In relation to the lack of registration by Cassidy's under the 1938 Foreign Agents Act, for the $550,000 between 2011 and 2013, the Daily Star has more of a point, and in fact this issue was the subject of the second NewAge article. 

The Foreign Agent Registration Act 1938 requires that any lobbying firm acting on behalf of a foreign political party must register itself with the US Department of Justice within 10 days of agreeing to become ‘an agent’ of the political party and before performing any duties on its behalf. 

As the New Age article suggests, Cassidy may well have a case to answer in not registering, however it is not an entirely straightforward argument, as the lawyers interviewed for the article show.

The article also states that 'It is widely believed that the outcry over the war crimes trial's international standard was a product of Quasem's trump card, which he has in plenty.' This is of course a bit of editorializing, rather than news - and it is true that a lot of people believe that. 

However, the idea that Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Centre for Transitional Justice, the Economist and many other groups and individuals have been corrupted and improperly influenced is ridiculous. The Daily Star reporter may disagree with the views of these organizations, but to suggest that Jamaat's money is behind them is faintly ridiculous. 

In terms of money, what perhaps is more of interest would be how much the Jamaat have spent on its UK legal team at 9 Bedford Row. There we must be talking about hundreds of thousands of pounds, perhaps even into the millions.


* added later to this article


  1. there's a typo in this post quoting $370 million. i'm assuming you wanted to say 370,000. just wanted to point it out.

    thanks for clarifying the real story though.

  2. Thanks for pointing out that typo. Has been changed!

  3. its also significant, I believe, that member's donations are funding the Party's legal efforts. People who generally don't earn very much.