Nazmul Huda & Sigma Huda
In the first ever bribery case filed by the Anti-corruption Commission (ACC), a court yesterday sentenced former communications minister Nazmul Huda to seven years rigorous imprisonment, while his wife Sigma Huda was sentenced to three years simple imprisonment.
Another special court, convened on the same premises and designed to adjudicate graft cases, yesterday sentenced in absentia former jute minister Shajahan Siraj's wife Rabeya Haider to 32 years simple imprisonment in connection with four tax evasion cases.
But, Rabeya will have to spend only five years in jail as the court ordered her jail terms to be served concurrently. The former minister and his wife are currently absconding.
Nazmul Huda was also fined Tk 2.50 crore, in default of which he will have to serve one more year of jail term. The court also ordered the amount of the bribe of Tk 2.40 crore, taken by Nazmul Huda assisted by his wife, to be confiscated by the state.
A special court of Amar Kumar Roy pronounced the verdict on Nazmul Huda under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 for abuse of power and corruption, while Sigma Huda was sentenced under Bangladesh Penal Code for being the accomplice in the crime.
The special court set up in the MP Hostel in Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban complex delivered the verdict around 11:30am.
Defense lawyers pleaded the court to read out the whole judgment of 180 pages, which the court rejected. The court took about 15 minutes to read out the judgment.
Nazmul Huda was brought to the court in a prison van while his wife was brought in an ambulance at 9:45am.
"The judgment has been pronounced in the first ever case in connection with taking bribe in the history of the Anti-corruption Commission," said Mosharraf Hossain Kajol, a prosecution lawyer.
Family members of the Hudas including their daughters thronged the court who said the verdict was 'dictated' as they had apprehended.
"We have received the verdict just a while ago and applied for a certified copy of it. We will decide about it after having the copy," said a defence lawyer adding, "Our clients are dumbfounded by the verdict."
ACC Deputy Director Shafiqul Islam filed the case against the former minister and his wife with Dhanmondi police station on March 21 for taking Tk 2.4 crore in bribe from Mir Zahir Hossain, owner of Mir Akter Hossain Ltd, a construction firm. On June 4, the ACC pressed charges against them.
The verdict was delivered in 56 working days. Depositions of 48 witnesses were taken during the period, eight of whom gave depositions in favour of the Hudas.
The joint forces arrested Nazmul Huda from his Dhanmondi residence on February 4 on charges of corruption.
Nazmul Huda took Tk 2.40 crore as bribe from Mir Zahir Hossain at different times in exchange for awarding him five government contracts for construction works including road renovations worth about Tk 30 crore.
The bribe was taken in phases between February 12, 2005 and February 17, 2005. Five work contracts were awarded to the plaintiff, the works of which were carried out between 2004 and 2005.
The government contracts included a work order for renovation of roads under DFID projects at Bhulta, Rupganj, and Rampura worth Tk 4.16 crore.
The other contracts were for maintenance works of Rajshahi-Natore Road, Rajshahi-Nawabganj Road, and roads and highways in greater Rajshahi area worth Tk 10 crore, for works of Faridpur-Kamarkhali Road worth Tk 5.64 crore, for construction of Jamuna Multi-purpose Bridge Building at Banani in the capital worth Tk 4 crore, and another contract for works of Rajshahi-Natore Road worth Tk 6.72 crore, prosecution sources said.
Sigma Huda was charged in the same case for aiding and abetting her husband in taking the bribe, which was found deposited in an account of Khoborer Ontorale, a weekly newspaper owned by her. Later Tk 1 crore of the bribe money was transferred to HSBC bank accounts of their daughters.
"Rabeya will have to serve five years in jail as she will be serving the terms concurrently. But she has to pay the full amount of the fine or serve the full additional jail term in default," said AFM Gholam Fattah, a public prosecutor.
Special Court-5 also fined Rabeya Tk 4 lakh in the cases, in default of which she will have to spend another two years in jail.
Each of the four cases against Rabeya under Income Tax Ordinance, 1984 was divided into two sections one for concealing information about her wealth on her tax returns submitted for tax years 1988 to 1999, and the other for providing false information on the returns. In each of the cases she was sentenced to three years simple imprisonment in connection with concealing information, and to five years simple imprisonment in connection with providing false information.
Rabeya was also fined Tk 50,000 under each section of the cases. In default of each fine she will have to serve additional three months in jail, totaling to two years of addition jail term. She will however have to pay the full amount of the fine.
The court also directed the government to confiscate 30.50 decimal and 50 decimal of lands owned by Rabeya in connection with two of the cases as she did not provide any information about the lands in her tax returns.
Judge Shamsunnahar delivered the verdict around 5:00pm in an almost empty courtroom.
The court also ordered issuance of arrest warrant against the fugitive.
Assistant Tax Commissioner Pratap Chandra Pal filed the cases on July 7, 2007. A total of 13 witnesses gave depositions in the cases.
Prosecution lawyers were present to receive the judgment. The sentences will be effective either from the day of Rabeya's arrest or her surrender.
Rabeya in her tax return submitted for 1988-'89 tax year did not mention anything about 30.5 decimal of land, owned by her at Kalihati in Tangail, prosecution sources said.
In her tax return submitted for 1995-'96 tax year she did not mention anything about Tk 6 lakh she had donated to a school on December 13, 1994.
Rabeya had also donated Tk 4 lakh in five phases to the same school between August 24, 1996 and September 19, 1996, but did not mention anything about the donation in her tax return submitted for 1997-'98 tax year.
In the tax return submitted for 2003-'04 tax year Rabeya also did not mention anything about 50 decimal of land she had bought on June 16, 2003 at Kalihati in Tangail.