Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case: Former Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia was on Thursday sentenced to five years in jail in a corruption case centered around the embezzlement of about $250,000 funds in foreign donations meant for an orphanage trust. Her son has also been sent to 10 years jail along with four others in connection with the case. The verdict against Zia, who also heads the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) was announced by the Special Court-5 in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Zia has been awarded rigorous imprisonment. She has been to jail earlier also, but this is for the first time she has been convicted.
What is Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case
According to Daily Star, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) had filed a case against six people including Zia with Ramna Police Station. Charges against them were framed on 21 March 2014 by a lower court in Dhaka.
All accused in the case were indicted four years ago. Khaleda Zia had made a last attempt to get the corruption case against her dropped on November 30, 2014, when Bangladesh Supreme Court refused to entertain her second “leave to appeal” petition challenging her indictment in the case. The apex court had then also asked Zia to face trial in the lower court.
The trial court had indicted Zia on two corruption charges brought against her by the ACC.
The ACC had alleged that the two charities including the Zia Charitable Trust, which was created by Zia herself when she served as PM, existed only on paper. Moreover, in the name of the two organizations, a huge amount of money was misappropriated while Zia served as the PM during 2001-2006, according to PTI.
According to local media, Dhaka Tribune, the prosecution in the case against Zia made following points against the former PM:
- The Prime Minister’s Orphanage Fund, which was solely administered by Khaleda Zia, had received a $1.25 million grant from United Saudi Commercial Bank in June 1991. The prosecution had alleged that the Fund was hastily formed before receiving the grant. Khaleda Zia had deposited Tk2.33 crore (around $250,000) to Zia Orphanage Trust and appointed her son as the trust’s “settlor”. Between 1993 and March 2007, Tk 2.1 crore was withdrawn from the fund by others and a separate file was kept for maintaining the record of the then PM’s signatures.
- The Zia Orphanage Trust had received the fund of around $250,000 in November 1992 to set up an orphanage in Bogra. Out of this, around Tk 2.77 lakh was spent to purchase 2.79-acre land in Bogra, while Tk 4 lakh was withdrawn from the Zia Orphanage Trust for the purpose. Between 1993 and 2006, the rest of the trust’s money had remained idle in the bank. Later, between April-July 2006, Tarique and his cousin Mominur Rahman had withdrawn Tk3.3 crore. In March 2007, Tk2.1 crore was transferred to Sharfuddin Ahmed’s bank account.
What was the punishment awarded to Zia, her son and others
While Zia has got five years rigorous imprisonment, her son and vice-chairman of BNP, Tarique Rahman and four others were awarded 10 years jail and a fine of Tk 2.10 crore (local currency each). While announcing the quantum of punishment, judge Md Akhtaruzzaman said that she was awarded shorter term in view of her “health and social status”, according to Daily Star. The former PM would be kept at the old Dhaka Central Jail on Nazimuddin Road of the national capital.
Other accused in the case were Khaleda’s former principal secretary Kamal Uddin Siddiqui, former Magura MP Kazi Salimul Haque, former president Ziaur Rahman’s nephew Mominur Rahman, and businessman Sharifuddin.
How will Zia’s conviction affect Bangladesh politics?
The conviction and imprisonment of Zia come ahead of the Parliamentary elections in the country to be held in December this year. Experts believe that Khaleda Zia would not qualify for contesting the next general election after the verdict. This will make it easy for the ruling Sheikh Hasina government to come back to power again.