Relief and Disaster Management Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya may face 13 years of imprisonment on graft charges as the Supreme Court yesterday scrapped the High Court verdict that cleared his name.
The apex court also ordered rehearing the appeal Maya had filed with the HC against the verdict of a lower court, which sentenced him for illegally amassing wealth worth Tk 6.29 crore and concealing assets worth Tk 5.90 crore.
A three-member Appellate Division bench, led by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, passed the order in response to an Anti-Corruption Commission petition challenging Maya's acquittal.
Maya would remain on bail until the HC disposes of his appeal, said an ACC counsel.
The anti-graft body filed the case against Maya, also ruling Awami League leader, with Sutrapur Police Station on June 13, 2007.
At that time, an army-backed caretaker government was in power and it was conducting a drive against corruption of high-profile politicians and businesspeople.
A special court on February 14, 2008, convicted Maya and sentenced him to 13 years in jail, fined him Tk 5 crore, and ordered confiscation of about Tk 6 crore of his “ill-gotten” wealth.
Maya, who was on the run during the trial, did not stand in the 2008 parliamentary elections. He returned home after his party came to power.
He filed the appeal with the HC on May 25, 2009, challenging the special court's verdict.
He was acquitted by the HC on October 27, 2010.
In 2011, the ACC filed the petition for permission to appeal against the HC verdict.
ACC counsel Khurshid Alam Khan yesterday told The Daily Star that the SC came up with the order after accepting his arguments that the HC verdict was not correct, since it did not properly consider the relevant evidence and the corruption allegations against Maya.
He added that the HC would now examine whether the lower court had delivered a proper judgment.
The ACC counsel said the HC had acquitted several other corruption-accused, including BNP leaders and former state ministers Iqbal Hasan Mahmood Tuku and Mir Mohammad Nasiruddin and his (Nasiruddin) son Mir Helal Uddin, and independent lawmaker Haji Mohammad Selim and BNP leader Amanullah Aman, in separate cases in the light of an SC judgment that acquitted former AL minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir in a similar case.
Khurshid said the SC had acquitted Alamgir, declaring illegal a 2007 ACC notice that asked him to submit wealth statement. The ACC had no commissioners then and Alamgir was in jail at that time.
The top court, however, had scrapped several of those verdicts and asked the HC to hold fresh appeal hearings. The HC was yet to fix any date for those hearings, Khurshid said.
Maya's lawyer Abdul Baset Majumder told The Daily Star that his client was abroad when the lower court had tried and sentenced him in 2008. The grounds on which the SC cancelled the HC verdict would be known once the full text of the verdict is released.
Citing his arguments, Baset said initiation of the corruption case was illegal, since it was filed on the basis of an illegal notice issued by the then ACC secretary.
The Daily Star failed to reach the minister for comments. His phone was switched off.