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Ex-PM Khaleda charged in Niko graft case

Dhaka, Mar 29: The Dhaka Special Judge Court-9 on Sunday charged ex-prime minister and Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia and seven others in Niko graft case.

Judge Sheikh Hafizur Rahman of the court passed the order.

The court also set May 23 for the commencement of the trial by recording the testimonies of the witnesses in the case.

Advocate Masud Ahmmed Talukdar stood for Khaleda.

Three other accused in the case- Khandaker Shahidul Islam, CM Yusuf Hossain and businessperson Gias Uddin Al Mamun- were present in the court.

Meanwhile, the court also issued a warrant for the arrest of another accused, Selim Bhuiyan, in the case when his counsel Jakaria Haidar filed a petition seeking time.

Earlier, the court deferred the hearing on charge framing in the case several times.

On December 9, 2007, the Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case accusing Khaleda and four others of causing a loss of Tk 137.77 billion to the state by signing an oil and gas exploration deal with Canadian company Niko on behalf of the state that was deemed to not place Bangladesh’s national interest above all other considerations, and swayed by graft.

The anti-graft body pressed charges in court against 11 people, including Khaleda, in May 2008.

The other accused in the case are former principal secretary Kamal Uddin Siddique, Khandaker Shahidul Islam, CM Yusuf Hossain, former BAPEX general manager Mir Mainul Haq, Giasuddin Al Mamun, former parliamentarian MAH Selim and former vice-president of South-Asia affairs of Niko, Kashem Sharif.

Among the accused, BNP Standing Committee Member Barrister Moudud Ahmed, former state minister AKM Mosharraf Hossain and former BAPEX secretary Shafiur Rahman died during the trial proceedings.

Khaleda was sent to the Old Dhaka Central Jail as a lower court sentenced her to five years’ imprisonment in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case on February 8, 2018. Later, she was found guilty and convicted in another corruption case the same year.

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, the government temporarily freed Khaleda Zia from jail through an executive order by suspending her sentence on March 25, 2020, with conditions that she would stay at her Gulshan house and would not leave the country.

Since then, her release term has been extended every six months following the family’s plea.

The 77-year-old BNP chief has been staying at her Gulshan residence since her release in 2020. She also received treatment at Evercare Hospital in the capital six times since she was infected with Covid-19 in April 2021.

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