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 Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 13:43 GMT
Ex-Bangladesh PM faces court action
Sheikh Hasina
Hasina has dismissed the charges as baseless

Charges against the former Bangladeshi Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, relating to the purchase of eight Russian-built jet fighters for the Bangladesh Air Force have been submitted to a court in the capital, Dhaka.

The move means that the court can now begin trial proceedings against Ms Hasina.

Several senior former military and civilian officials and a businessman have also been charged.

Ms Hasina is already facing several other corruption cases since she lost power in October 2001.

'Corrupt practices'

The Bureau of Anti-Corruption (BAC) accuses Ms Hasina and six men of misappropriating nearly $120m of state money by purchasing the Russian MiG fighters three years ago using corrupt practices.

The accused men are:

  • Former Air Force Chief Air Vice Marshal Jamal Uddin Ahmed
  • Former Army Chief General Mustafizur Rahman
  • Former Defence Secretary Syed Yusuf Hossain
  • Senior Air Force officer Mirza Akhter Maroof
  • Former Joint Secretary of the Defence Ministry Mohammad Hossain Serniabat
  • Businessman Noor Ali.

When Ms Hasina lost the 2001 general elections, the new government of her arch-rival, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, implicated her in several corruption cases.

General H M Ershad
General Ershad was jailed for corruption
One related to the purchase of a naval frigate from South Korea.

Sheikh Hasina also faces another case related to $3m allegedly spent by her on foreign consultants for an export promotion scheme.

But no formal charges have been laid in those cases.


If found guilty over the purchase of the Russian planes, Ms Hasina could face jail, a fine, or both.

There has been no immediate comment from her or her Awami League party after the BAC submitted its charge sheet to a court in the capital, Dhaka.

Beggar with children
Bangladeshis face 'the worst corruption in the world'
When the Russian jet corruption case was filed a year ago, she told the BBC that the charges were baseless and motivated by vindictiveness.

Ironically, that is the allegation her political opponents also brought against her in the past.

When in power, Sheikh Hasina's government filed corruption cases against Khaleda Zia and dozens of other members of her Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

They include the former Air Force chief, Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, who is now the Home Minister.

Those cases are now suspended.

Almost all senior politicians in Bangladesh now face corruption cases.

But the former military ruler, Hussain Muhammad Ershad, is the only high profile politician to be convicted of corruption and serve a prison sentence.

Legal complexities tend to prolong the investigation and settlement of the corruption cases against senior politicians in Bangladesh.

"We really don't know what will be the fate of these cases," lawyer Shahdeen Malik told the BBC.

"But our past experiences suggest that most of the cases are politically motivated and aimed at harassing political opponents."

Promise of independence

The international anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International, ranks Bangladesh as the most corrupt country in the world.

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia
Zia promised an independent commission

However, the alleged corrupt activities involving senior political leaders are a controversial issue here.

The BAC is directly controlled by the prime minister's office and needs clearance to open inquiries against politicians and other senior figures.

So the cases filed by it often lack credibility.

A former director general of the BAC, Badi-ud-Zaman, earlier told the BBC that there was not a single instance where the bureau had filed a corruption case against any politician or minister of the party then in power.

He said corruption charges were brought against politicians only when they were out of power.

Transparency International has already called for an independent commission to investigate high-level corruption in Bangladesh.

Before the 2001 vote, Khaleda Zia promised to set up an independent anti-corruption commission.

But some analysts say the government now seems to be reluctant to fulfil its election promises.

See also:

31 Oct 02 | Technology
29 Aug 02 | Business
17 Dec 02 | South Asia
11 Dec 01 | South Asia
20 Nov 00 | South Asia
02 Oct 01 | South Asia
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