Koko jailed for 6yrs
Court also fines him Tk 39cr in absentia; asks for steps to bring back Tk 20cr laundered money from SingAPORE.
Arafat Rahman Koko, younger son of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, was yesterday sentenced to six years’ rigorous imprisonment for laundering over Tk 20 crore to Singapore.
The only other accused in the case, Ismail Hossain Saimon, son of former shipping minister late Akbar Hossain, was given the same sentence.
This is the first ever judgment in any case against a member of the Zia family. Khaleda and her two sons–Tarique Rahman and Koko–stand accused in 22 cases. Nineteen of the cases were filed during the last caretaker government rule and three during the present government’s tenure.
Judge Mohammad Mozammel Hossain of the Special Judge’s Court-3 delivered the judgment around 12:15pm in a courtroom packed with lawyers, journalists and BNP men.
The convicts–both tried in absentia–were also fined Tk 38.83 crore each. The sentences will take effect on the day of their arrest or surrender.
The prosecution has proved beyond doubt the charges against the accused,” the judge observed.
He also asked the authorities concerned to take measures to bring back the money stashed in Singapore.
As soon as the judge pronounced the verdict, pro-BNP lawyers burst into noisy protests in the courtroom. Later, they brought out a procession down the corridor outside.
The Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case against Koko on March 17, 2009.
According to the charges, Koko and Saimon had received Tk 19.71 crore in bribe from German telecom giant Siemens and Chinese engineering firm China Harbour Ltd to win them telecom and terminal-building contracts. They later siphoned the money off to Singapore.
In connection with the money laundering, a Singapore court on January 2 this year fined Lim Siew Cheng, a local businessman, for keeping Koko’s money in his account.
The Straits Times, an English language daily in the island state, reported that the court fined Cheng $900,677 for having Koko’s $317,000 transferred to his account and holding on to it on Koko’s advice.
According to other media reports, the US authorities on January 8, 2009, initiated a move in a District of Columbia court to recover funds worth $3 million allegedly obtained by Koko from German company Siemens and kept in a Singapore-based bank.
On December 15 the previous year, in a settlement with the US Department of Justice, Siemens agreed to pay $1.6 billion in fine to various authorities as penalties for its “corruption”.
The US authorities alleged that former Siemens Telecommunication Group had made payments totalling $813.9 million to win various telecom projects in Argentina, Bangladesh, and Venezuela.
Terming the judgment “politically biased,” Dhaka city unit Jatiyatabadi Ainjibi Forum, a pro-BNP lawyers’ body, held a protest rally at the Dhaka Bar Association’s conference room yesterday afternoon.
Speakers there demanded resignation of Home Minister Sahara Khatun and State Minister for Law Qamrul Islam. They alleged that even before the verdict came, the two had stated that Tarique and Koko would be convicted shortly.
The lawyers declared that they would cover their faces with black cloth on June 26 to protest the verdict against Koko.
Additional police forces including Rapid Action Battalion personnel were deployed on the court premises to avoid any untoward incident.
All the gates were kept shut to restrict entry. Lawyers, litigants and visitors had to undergo body searches.
At one stage, law enforcers and lawyers got locked in clashes over entering the courtroom.
Meanwhile, ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahman said the commission would take steps in line with the laws to bring back the laundered money once it has the court order in hand.
Judge Mohammad Mozammel Hossain on June 19 set the date for verdict after hearing the closing argument of the prosecution.
Earlier, the court recorded statements of 22 prosecution witnesses and complainant ACC Deputy Director Abu Sayeed.
On October 30 last year, it issued arrest warrants against Koko and Saimon, and a month later, it framed charges against them in their absence.
Koko was arrested on September 2, 2007, on corruption charges. He was released on parole for treatment abroad on July 17 the following year. His parole was cancelled on August 19 last year for violating terms and he was asked to return home. He, however, has yet to return.
Saimon has been absconding since filing of the case.