Special Correspondent ;
Dhaka – The trial of exiled former chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha has been begun after he and 10 others were indicted on charges of money laundering and embezzlement four years ago.
A Dhaka court ordered the beginning of the trial in a case lodged by Anti-Corruption Commission last year over a bank loan fraud, hastily transfer the fund, embezzlement and laundering it abroad. The amount involved 40 million taka, according to the investigators.
Judge Sheikh Nazmul Alam of Dhaka Special Judge Court-4 passed the order on Thursday. He also issued arrest warrant for seven fugitives, including the former chief justice, now exiled in Canada.
During the order, three accused were present at the dock. Two of them are on bail while the third one, arrested in another case, was brought to the court from jail.
Investigation officer (IO) and Anti-Corruption Commission director Benjir Ahmed filed the charge-sheet in the case with the court of Dhaka Metropolitan Session Judge KM Imrul Qayes on December 10, 2019. The charges were accepted by the court in January.
The anti-graft body filed the case on July 10, 2019, for embezzling four crore from then Farmers Bank. Two of the accused are close aides of the chief justice while six other officials of the Farmer’s Bank, later renamed as Padma Bank Limited, were accused in helping the aides to hastily secure the loan. The amount was eventually transferred to the personal account of the Sinha, who was heading the country’s judiciary at that time.
Former Farmers Bank managing director AKM Shameem, first vice-presidents Swapan Kumar Roy and Shafiuddin Askaree, senior executive vice-president Gazi Salauddin, vice- president M Lutful Haque, bank’s entrepreneur director Md Mahbubul Haque Chisty alias Babul Chisty, bank clients Md Shahjahan, Niranjan Chandra Saha, his uncle Ranajit Chandra Saha, and Ranajit’s wife Santree Roy were also accused.
According to the allegation, Md Shahjahan and Niranjan took the money on loan from the bank, which was later transferred to Justice Sinha’s Sonali Bank account, showing it was earned from selling of his (Sinha’s) house.
Sinha denies the allegations and calls the government’s prosecution politically motivated.
He left Bangladesh for Australia in October 2017 after a souring relationship with the top ruling Awami League party leaders over his remarks on a verdict in a constitutional amendment law.
The law had sought parliamentary authority to impeach a Supreme Court judges, but based on a petition, Sinha running counter to the government’s position, scrapped it and reinstated the previously provision of Supreme Judicial Council to remove a judge from his office.
Sinha then travelled briefly to the US. He sought asylum there in late 2018 and published a book titled “A Broken Dream: Rule of Law, Human Rights and Democracy”, claiming that he had resigned in the face of intimidation and threats.
He eventually left for Canada and reportedly applied for political asylum there in 2019.