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Tuesday, 11 December, 2001, 17:43 GMT
Former Bangladesh PM charged
Sheikh Hasina
Hasina has dismissed the charges as baseless
By the BBC's Waliur Rahman in Dhaka

Bangladesh's Bureau of Anti-Corruption (BAC) has filed several cases against the former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on corruption charges.

Similar charges were also filed against four former ministers and several senior government officials.

Police say two cases were filed against Sheikh Hasina, the leader of main opposition Awami League.

One implicated her in corrupt dealing relating to purchase of eight MiG-29 fighter aircraft for the Bangladesh Air Force (BAF) two years ago.

A former chief of the BAF and a former defence secretary have also been accused in that case.

The other relates to her appointing a consultant for what is called an exclusive economic zone.

The cases were filed at several police stations in Dhaka after the BAC completed its investigation.

Former ministers Mohammad Nasim, Rafiqul Islam, AK Faezul Haq and Saber Hossain Chowdhury have been accused of embezzlement and misuse of power.

Vindictive tradition

Other former senior officials too were implicated in the cases.

They include Dr Syed Abdus Samad who was the Principal Secretary to Hasina, and Safiur Rahman, the former Home Secretary.

Mr Rahman is now a commissioner with Bangladesh's Election Commission.

This is the first instance of the government of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia filing corruption cases against the leaders of the previous government.

General H M Ershad
General Ershad was jailed for corruption

After taking power following her victory in the polls held in October, Mrs Zia issued a list of alleged acts of corruption committed by the Awami League government.

She then announced a white paper on corruption committed during the previous five years would be published.

The government says the paper is still under preparation.

Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina, speaking to the BBC from the USA, said the charges were baseless and motivated by vindictiveness.

Bangladesh's Law Minister Moudud Ahmed denies this and says the country must rid itself of the image of being a corruption-ridden land.

Mass poverty

Corruption is widely believed to be rife in Bangladesh and donors have frequently asked successive governments to weed it out.

Shortly before the October elections, Transparency International branded Bangladesh the most corrupt country in the world.

Bangladesh is also one of the world's poorest countries with over half the population living under the poverty line.

Beggar with children
Rich leaders lead poor people

Political parties have used the image of corrupt leaders being responsible for mass poverty against their rivals.

Another former ruler, General H M Ershad, too was charged with corruption by Mrs Zia's previous government in the early 1990s.

General Ershad was convicted of corruption and served a prison sentence before being released.

Sheikh Hasina's government too filed corruption cases against Khaleda Zia herself a few years ago.

Earlier in the year, Bangladesh's High Court suspended those cases.

See also:

07 Sep 00 | South Asia
Bangladesh ex-PM granted bail
20 Nov 00 | South Asia
Bangladesh general back in jail
27 May 01 | South Asia
Corruption 'rife' in Bangladeshi police
02 Oct 01 | South Asia
Analysis: A tale of two women
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