Khaleda's trial in graft cases begins
A Dhaka court yesterday opened the trial of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, her elder son Tarique Rahman and seven others in two cases on charges of raising fund illegally for two charities and embezzling the amount.
The Anti-Corruption Commission had filed the cases in 2008 and 2011. According to the charge sheet in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case, Khaleda, Tarique and four others embezzled Tk 2.1 crore by forming the charity that exists only on paper.
The other case statement said Khaleda and three others abused power during the 1991-1996 tenure of the then BNP-led government to collect Tk 6.19 crore for Zia Charitable Trust. The charities were named after late president Ziaur Rahman.
The trial began in the absence of Khaleda and Tarique. Four other accused were present in the court while three have been absconding since filing of the cases.
The special judge's court-3 opened the trial by recording the deposition of complainant Harun-ur-Rashid, deputy director of ACC, six months after the indictment of the accused in the cases.
The court framed charges on March 19, but could not start the trial as Khaleda filed four petitions with the Supreme Court challenging the appointment of the judge and legality of the indictment.
Her two petitions challenging the appointment of Bashudeb Roy as the judge to hold the trial were rejected conclusively by the Supreme Court recently. Two other petitions of the former premier are still pending with the SC.
Yesterday, the court granted two petitions filed by the defence seeking Khaleda's non-appearance before it for the day on security grounds.
The judge, however, rejected four other petitions submitted to him on behalf of Khaleda seeking adjournment of the hearing in the cases.
Later, Khaleda's counsels filed two more petitions expressing no-confidence in the judge, but the court kept the prayers in the case files without passing any order on those.
Four counsels of the BNP chief were present at the makeshift court in the capital's Bakshibazar yesterday when pro-BNP lawyers were boycotting courts across the country protesting the 16th constitutional amendment.
Former BNP MP Kazi Saleemul Haque Kamal, businessman Sharfuddin Ahmed and two other accused were present in the court yesterday.
The court fixed October 13 for the next hearing in the two cases and asked Khaleda and four others to appear before it on that day.
Two accused in the Zia orphanage case, Kamaluddin Siddiqui, the then principal secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, and Momenur Rahman, nephew of Zia, are on the run.
An accused in Zia Charitable Trust case, Harris Chowdhury, political secretary to then prime minister Khaleda, also remains a fugitive.
Senior vice-chairman of BNP, Tarique was accused in the Zia orphanage case. He has been on bail and the court allowed him to represent himself by lawyers.
Khaleda along with several other BNP and Jamaat leaders has also been facing three more graft cases. The trials of the cases were earlier stayed following orders by the Supreme Court.
ZIA ORPHANAGE CASE
The ACC on July 3, 2008 had sued Khaleda, Tarique and four others in the case. The other accused are former BNP lawmaker Kazi Saleemul Haque, businessman Sharfuddin Ahmed, Khaleda's former principal secretary Kamal Uddin Siddiqui and Momenur Rahman.
The case statement said a grant of $1,255,000 (then around Tk 4.45 crore) was transferred from the United Saudi Commercial Bank to the Prime Minister's Orphanage Fund created by the then premier Khaleda shortly before the money was transferred on June 9, 1991.
It was done as part of a planned embezzlement, and only Khaleda administered the fund, said the complainant.
The ACC pressed charges against the accused on August 5, 2009 as the charges brought against them were primarily proved.
ZIA CHARITABLE TRUST CASE
During the tenure of the four-party alliance government, Khaleda and three others abused power to raise fund for Zia Charitable Trust, according to the ACC that filed the case on August 8, 2011.
The other accused in the case are Harris Chowdhury, Ziaul Islam Munna, assistant private secretary to Harris, and Monirul Islam Khan, APS to Sadeque Hossain Khoka, mayor of the erstwhile Dhaka City Corporation.
The money was collected from different sources by using the influence of the PMO in 2005. An amount of Tk 7.81 crore was deposited in the trust account in a week starting from January 13 that year, complained the ACC.
Khaleda, as the first managing trustee of the charity, opened the account with the PMO branch of Sonali Bank on January 1.
Of the total fund, Tk 6.19 crore came from the BNP and the rest from unknown sources.