Khaleda denies Gatco graft allegation | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 12, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 12, 2007

Khaleda denies Gatco graft allegation

Says it's mere formality for a PM to sign a deal okayed by purchase committee

Detained BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia yesterday denied charges against her of corruption in awarding container handling contracts to local company Gatco and said she gave the nod only after the cabinet purchase committee had approved the deal.
During interrogation by an Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) team in a graft case against her, she said, "Neither me nor my son had any involvement in the deal."
"Earlier, I did not approve the contract as the committee had decided to send back the dossier to the concerned ministry," her tax lawyer Ahmed Aazam Khan quoted her as saying.
Khaleda argued that there is barely any instance of a prime minister rejecting a proposal that has received approval from the purchase committee.
The ACC filed the case on September 2 against the former premier, her younger son Arafat Rahman Koko and 11 others for graft in giving Global Agro Trade (Pvt) Co Ltd (Gatco) the contract for container management at the Dhaka Inland Container Depot (ICD) and the Chittagong Port ICD yards.
The following day the joint forces arrested the BNP chief and her son at their cantonment residence.
"I was not swayed by anyone and neither did I exert any influence on the purchase committee to award the contract to Gatco," Khaleda said in reply to a query.
The three-member team of the Anti-graft body questioned her for about an hour from different angles to know if she had pulled strings in favour of Gatco, sources said. Earlier, another team had questioned her about the wealth statement to the ACC.
Comprised of investigation officer and ACC Deputy Director Jahirul Huda, taskforce-23 officers Major Mostafa Kamal and Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Inspector Nurul Islam, it went to the special prison in the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban complex at around noon for interrogation.
They entered the sub-jail through its west gate apparently to avoid the media. Later, talking to reporters at his office, ACC team leader Jahirul Huda said they have recorded Khaleda's statement.
He added, "She explained to us her position with regard to the Gatco case." He however declined to elaborate on the matter.
Accompanied by Ahmed Aazam Khan, Khaleda said that her approval was a mere formality as the then prime minister.
"Gatco files were placed before me for approval after they were okayed by the purchase committee," Aazam quoted Khaleda as saying in defence of her action.
Besides, she said, Arafat never tried to influence the process or recommended anything in this regard.
The ACC had recently taken depositions from seven former ministers, all members of the then purchase committee, six retired secretaries and an incumbent additional secretary of the communications ministry in connection with the graft case.
The ministers questioned are former finance minister Saifur Rahman, former LGRD minister Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, former industries minister Matiur Rahman Nizami, ex-agriculture minister MK Anwar and ex-information minister Shamsul Islam. They said they would come up with any help that the commission might need in the course of the probe.
The investigation had also grilled a number of former and incumbent officials of Chittagong Port Authority.
Meanwhile, Khaleda has urged the caretaker government to allow her to meet her two detained sons--Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman--on the Eid day.
"I will be very happy if the government makes arrangements for my two sons to visit me here at the sub-jail," Aazam quoted the BNP chairperson.

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