In 2003-04, when Petrobangla faced an arbitration case against Petroleum giant Cairns in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), the lawyers who were selected to represent Bangladesh and PetroBangla had no experience in international commercial arbitration. The second Khaleda Zia government made that selection based on the lawyers pro-BNP lebel. The result was expected, PetroBangla lost the winnable case and Bangladesh lost a substantial amount of money. The defeat was attributed to poor legal representation and lack of understanding between Petrobangla and its lawyers.
However, in early 90s Bangladesh government and petrobangla won an international arbitration against Canadian petroleum giant Scimitar. The lawyer representing Bangladesh Government was Dr Kamal Hossain and Associates.

So, when Bangladesh was again forced to go to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in March, 2006 for another dispute involving Chevron, Dr Kamal Hossain Associates were called back in to represent Bangladesh and PetroBangla. The hearing took place between 2007-2009. Although similar case against Cairns went against Bangladesh in 2004, this time the international arbitration court turned down US oil giant Chevron’s claim of around $240 million from Petrobangla. Dr Hossain’s able representation did not only save Bangladesh $240 million dollars of back pay, it also ensured $320 million more savings over the next 20 years contract period.

Based on the above experience, when Bangladeh was forced to go to ICSID to press it’s claims from another petroleum giant Niko, it was expected that Dr Kamal Hossain Associates would be representing Bangladesh. Especially when the stakes were very high, to be precise, Tk 7.64 billion. However, to the surprise of many, Newspaper reported that Advocate Tawfiq Newaz and his junior associates were given the job.

Who is this Advocate Tawfiq Newaz?

Mr Tawfiq Newaz was presented this way in Dipu website. Married to Bangladesh Foreign Minister Mrs Dipu Moni, Advocate Tawfiq Newaz “is one of two Oxbridge educated Senior Advocates of the Bangladesh Supreme Court, Head of an internationally reputed law firm and a parampara (generational) exponent of at least a 2000 year old Indian Classical Musical form, namely Alaap, on the Grande Flute.”

However random query made by this blogger to members of Bar in Bangladesh gave a whole different picture.
Based on the perception around Bangladesh Supreme Court premises, it is important Advocate Tawfique Newaz and those hiring him clarify several questions including,

1. What is bar exam status of Advocate Tawfique Newaz.
2. What is is reputation and perceived capability that will qualify him for Niko and other international arbitration over Dr Kamal Hossain.
3. What is his experience in related litigation cases?
4. Why Mr. Newaz is representing Bangladesh Government in every single high profile case bangladesh Government need legal representation?

In present day Bangladesh when inefficiency, dishonesty, personal loyalty-connection trump over quality, efficiency, honesty — Advocate Tawfique Newaz definitely would be The chosen lawyer by government of Bangladesh. Over the last couple of years Advocate Tawfique Newaz has been selected to represent Bangladesh Government in all possible need of legal representation. The following is a preliminary list

1. Government’s chosen lawyer to represent Bangladesh in Niko arbitration case.
2. Government’s lawyer to represent Bangladesh Bank against Dr Muhammad Yunus.
3. Governments lawyer in Bangabandhu murder trial.
4. Government lawyer panel member in 5th amendment case and upcoming 5th amendment review cases.
5. Member of The 7-member expert committee formed to review the ordinances, promulgated by the military-backed caretaker government
6. And most ominously it is being heard that Advocate Tawfique Newaz is being selected to represent Bangladesh in the arbitration court setup to resolve the differences with India over our maritime boundary.
The appointments of Tawfique Newaz raises some serious questions,
1. Is Bangladesh being represented by the most capable/ experienced lawyer when exceedingly important matters of national interest like our energy future ( maritime boundary) are at stake?
2. In commissioning legal firms in high-profile and high value ( both monetary and non monetary) cases, why can’t we have the minimal transparency? On what rationale and basis, Advocate Tawfique Newaz is getting all the government contracts.
3. How a foreign minister can commission her husband for such financially lucrative legal assignments? What is our conflict of interest policy?

I will finish this piece with a very passionate email pertaining to this matter, I recently received from a wel-informed friend,

Tawfik Newaz, the foreign minister’s husband, a failure of a lawyer, has been hired to rep BD in the niko arbitration case and either has/or is about to be (reports differ) hired to rep BD in the maritime boundary delimitation case. this strikes me as a huge conflict of interest … the possible repercussions are dire. these are not commissions to be handed out like candy, they need to be handled by competent parties and Tawfique Newaz does not have the experience for them at all (unarguable fact) nor is he legally skilful enough to do so (opinion, but one that is pretty much unanimous). Of course, the fee are monstrous. kamal hossain, by contrast, …recently won a $238 million settlement and is internationally recognized as one of the top commercial arbitration/oil and gas/law of the sea experts in the world. Patronage is one thing. But when it is the honor and responsibility of representing the GoB on matters of utmost gravity and importance, there is no room for this kind of fooling around.

[ Disclaimer: This post is not intended to slander or defame any anybody. All the information presented are checked and double checked from informed sources. If any information is wrong or unfounded, the corrections will be published and the blog will remove the unfounded remarks.]