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Decks cleared for Khaleda Zia’s trial on embezzlement charges

29 Nov 2014

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The Appellate Division of Supreme Court, highest court of the country, has cleared all obstructions for the lower court to continue trial proceedings against the BNP Chairperson and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia in Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.

 Two leave to appeal petitions filed by Khaleda Zia regarding acceptance of charges and indictment in the case were rejected by the highest court on November 24, 2014. A five-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Md Muzammel Hossen has cleared the decks for continuation of trial proceedings against the BNP chief on embezzlement charges.

 

Talking to reporters in Dhaka, Deputy Attorney General Ekramul Haque Tutul said, “Supreme Court rejected Khaleda Zia’s two leave to appeal petitions…now there is no legal barrier in trying her on corruption charges”.

 

Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) filed the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case on July 3, 2008 at Ramna Police Station accusing Khaleda Zia, her elder son Tarique Rahman and four others of embezzlement of funds that came as grants for orphans from a foreign bank.

 

On March 19, 2014 the Special Judge’s Court 3 of Dhaka framed charges against Khaleda Zia, her elder son Tarique Rahman and seven others in the Zia Charitable Trust and Zia Orphanage Trust graft cases. ACC filed two cases in 2008 and 2011 against Khaleda Zia, her son Tarique and others on charges of raising funds illegally for two charities and embezzling the amount.

 

ACC charged Khaleda Zia and her son for embezzlement of Tk 2.10 crore by forming a “fake trust” called the “Zia Orphanage Trust”. A grant of US $ 1,255,000 equivalent to Tk 4.45 crore at that time was transferred in 1991 from United Saudi Commercial Bank to Prime Minister’s Orphanage Fund – a fund that was created by Khaleda Zia shortly before transfer of the fund – as part of the embezzlement scheme.

 

Zia Charitable Trust case reveals that it was run by Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique Rahman. There were discrepancies galore in the statement of its income and expenditure as well as functioning which showed clear violation of norms governing such trust. It appears that illegally earned money of individuals and establishments constituted the main source of income of the trust. There were indications that funds drawn from the trust were utilized to meet personal and family requirements. Khaleda Zia and her aides withdrew $ 400,000 from the Zia Charitable Trust without any justifiable reason.

Apart from these two graft cases there are many corruption cases pending against Khaleda Zia in court of law. ACC filed a case with Tejgaon Police station charging her with unlawfully appointing Global Agro Trade Company (GATCO) as a contractor for both the Inland Container Depot in Dhaka and south eastern Chittagong port without following proper bidding procedure. The appointment of GATCO and problems arising out of it cost the state coffers $ 140 million (Tk 10 billion).  The government incurred a net loss of more than Tk 1,000 crore on this score.

In another case, ACC charge sheeted Khaleda Zia and 10 others in Niko scam case. The case report stated that Niko, a Canadian oil and gas exploration concern, was "very inefficient" in different aspects, including technical know-how for oil explorations, but the deal with Niko was approved on monetary considerations, in violations of proper procedures. Experts of Petrobangla and Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company (BAPEX) opposed the agreement but Khaleda Zia ignored opinions of the gas experts and took side with Niko on the deal, costing the state Tk 13,777 crore in losses.

Moreover, Khaleda Zia and 15 others stand accused in the Barapukuria  Coalmine case for irregularities and corruption in handing over operations of the coalmine to a Chinese company. The Government had to incur a loss of Tk 158.71 crore for awarding the contract to China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation.

A reign of terror was unleashed during BNP rule in the country. During this time  Khaleda Zia became all powerful and she engaged herself in various underhand dealings and unfair practices such as offering Ministership in exchange of money, getting a ‘cut’ from government contractors for awarding job, appointment and transfer / posting on monetary considerations and extracting commission on all developmental projects. The fabled ‘broken suitcase’ of Zia family soon got filled to the brim with ill-gotten cash. A large chunk of money thus earned was siphoned off to foreign banks.

 

After the 1/11 changes when the army-backed caretaker government launched anti-corruption drive in the country, situation changed all of a sudden. Khaleda Zia’s involvement in corrupt practices unraveled and came to the fore. She was put behind bars. Investigations carried out by ACC revealed how she amassed a large fortune for herself and her family through unlawful means. During interrogations by ACC and Task Force for Interrogations (TFI), officers posted in Prime Minister’s Office during the BNP rule as well as the miscreants and terrorists arrested during the army-backed caretaker regime provided valuable information about corrupt practices resorted to by Khaleda Zia and her sons.

 

Two sons of Khaleda Zia virtually created mayhem in the country by taking recourse to money laundering and siphoning off hundreds of millions of dollars to foreign countries. The last BNP-led government was an ostensible demonstration of how Islamic nationalism was utilized as a garb for the worst form of corruption Bangladesh has ever witnessed.

 

Sensing impending doom Khaleda Zia has now been trying to mobilize BNP cadres saying that charges against her and her sons were politically motivated. She has also been seeking to divert people’s attention from rampant corruptions of the BNP regime as well as of her sons by creating a smokescreen by indulging in India-baiting on various issues and projecting the Awami League government as one working as fifth columnist for India to sacrifice national interests. She has also orchestrated demands for trial of former Army chief Gen Moeen U Ahmed who was the main force behind Caretaker Government and whose initiatives had led to disclosures of Khaleda Zia’s corrupt practices and her son’s ill-gotten wealth stashed abroad. She has also launched a broadside against the Awami League Government accusing it of maligning the image of top leadership of “Banglageshi nationalist forces” by utilizing “false cases filed by an Army-backed unlawful dispensation”.




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