Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Bangladesh’s former chief justice indicted in corruption case

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A Dhaka court on Thursday indicted Bangladesh’s first Hindu Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha and 10 others on charges of embezzling 40 million taka from a bank, a court official said.

The indictment comes seven months after another Dhaka court issued an arrest warrant against the 69-year-old ex-chief justice who lives in the US and was described as a “fugitive” by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in its charge-sheet.

“The court today framed charges against SK Sinha and 10 others, beginning their trial in the Farmers Bank scandal,” said a prosecution lawyer in Dhaka.

He said six of the accused in the case were former officials of the bank while among the rest includes a reported aide of Sinha.

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The prosecutor said only three of the accused faced the trial in person as the rest were “on the run to evade justice”.

The court officials said Special Judge Shaikh Nazmul Alam read out the charges and set August 18 as the date for the next hearing.

The ACC filed charges against Sinha and 10 others while the court referred the case to the independent graft body for investigation.

The ACC said it found evidence of fraud involving transactions of 40 million taka ($472,995) borrowed with fake documents by two businessmen from the bank in 2016. The money was deposited in Sinha’s account.

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Sinha now lives in the US where he is said to have sought asylum. The graft case was lodged days after his newly launched autobiography brought him in political spotlight a year after he was forced to quit amid a row with the government.

In his autobiography, “A Broken Dream: Rule of Law, Human Rights and Democracy”, Sinha says he was forced to resign in 2017 following intimidation and threats.

His comments had drawn a sharp reaction from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who accused some anti-government newspapers of backing him.

In a media interview after the book launch in Washington, Sinha urged India to support the rule of law and democracy in Bangladesh.

He said the Indian government should not ignore the peoples’ will by backing the “autocratic” Awami League-led government and alleged that he was forced to resign because he opposed the “undemocratic” and “authoritarian” regime.

Sinha, Bangladesh’s first chief justice from the minority Hindu community, served as the 21st Chief Justice of Bangladesh from January 2015 to November 2017.

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