Ex-chief justice of Bangladesh indicted for money laundering

Ahammad Foyez and Robiul Islam | Published: 13:13, Aug 13,2020 | Updated: 00:47, Aug 14,2020


A New Age file photo of former chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha

The Dhaka Special Judge’s Court-4 on Thursday charged former chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha and 10 others with misappropriation and laundering of Tk 4 crore from Farmers Bank, now renamed as Padma Bank.

Judge Shaikh Nazmul Haque also posted for August 18 the formal commencement of the first-ever trial of a former chief justice in a graft case in Bangladesh with the recording of depositions of prosecution witnesses.

The court framed the charges rejecting petitions filed by former Farmers Bank audit committee chairman Mahbubul Haque Chisty and its former chief executive officer AKM Shameem and senior executive vice-president Gazi Salauddin for discharging them from the case.

The prison authority produced Mahbubul Haque Chisty before the court. Shameem and Gazi are on bail.

The court also issued warrants for the arrest of eight accused, including Justice Sinha, as they were shown fugitive.

The rest seven are former Farmers Bank first vice-presidents Swapan Kumar Roy and Shafiuddin Askaree and vice-president M Lutful Haque, the bank’s clients M Shahjahan of Sriharipur village and Ranajit Chandra Saha of Jadunathpur village in Tangail, Ranjit’s wife Santri Roy and his nephew Niranjan Chandra Saha. Ranjit was shown as Justice Sinha’s private secretary.

Anti-Corruption Commission director Sayed Iqbal Hossain filed the first-ever corruption case against a former chief justice in Bangladesh on July 10, 2019.

The commission’s investigation officer Benzir Ahmed submitted the charge sheet on December 10, 2019 against the 11 people.

The commission dropped former Farmers Bank senior executive vice-president Ziauddin Ahmed from the charge sheet as he died during investigation while it named Mahbubul Haque Chisty in the charge sheet as the investigation found evidence against him.

On January 5, 2020, Dhaka senior special judge KM Imrul Kayes accepted the charge sheet and issued warrants for the arrest of the 11 accused as they were shown fugitive in the charge sheet.

According to the charges, Niranjan and Shahjahan transferred Tk 4 crore from their accounts with the Gulshan Branch of the bank to Justice SK Sinha’s account with the Supreme Court Branch of Sonali Bank Limited through two pay orders — Tk 2 crore each — on November 9, 2016.

The fund was withdrawn at times from Justice SK Sinha’s account.

The 11 people siphoned off the money from then Farmers Bank in collusion with each other in the name of loan between November 2016 and September 2018, said the charges.

On April 25, 2018, the commission started an inquiry into a complaint from an unknown source that Tk 4 crore was transferred to Justice Sinha’s bank account from two Farmers Bank accounts.

The inquiry began four months and a half after Justice Sinha resigned as the chief justice on November 10, 2018 amid serious controversies following a unanimous Appellate Division verdict.

The verdict upheld a High Court judgement striking down the 16th Amendment to the constitution which restored the Jatiya Sangsad’s power to remove Supreme Court judges for misconduct or incapacity.

The unanimous verdict of the highest court, penned down by chief justice SK Sinha, created bitterness between him and the government.

Immediately after Justice Sinha’s resignation, law minister Anisul Huq said that the law would take its own course with regard to the 11 allegations brought against Justice Sinha by five fellow Appellate Division judges.

Justice Sinha, now reportedly in the United States, sent his letter of resignation through the Bangladesh High Commissioner to Singapore while he was there on his way to Australia.

Lawyers said that Sinha’s departure from Bangladesh and his resignation occurred due to pressure mounted by the government.

On October 2, 2018, the law minister announced that Justice Sinha had expressed his desire to go on leave for a month with effect from October 3, 2018 saying that he was suffering from cancer and other diseases.

On October 3, 2018, the government announced that the next senior-most Appellate Division judge, Justice Wahhab Miah, would discharge the duties of the chief justice during Justice SK Sinha’s absence on ‘sick leave’.

A law ministry notification on October 12, 2018 extended his 30-day ‘sick leave’ until November 10, 2018.

On October 13, 2018, Justice Sinha left for Australia.

While leaving his official residence for the airport on the day, Justice Sinha told the waiting reporters in a written statement that he was going abroad for the time being and would return soon.

On October 14, 2018, in an unprecedented statement, Supreme Court registrar general Syed Aminul Islam said that five fellow Appellate Division judges declined to share any bench with Justice Sinha after the president had handed to them documents regarding 11 specific allegations about corruption and irregularities committed by Justice Sinha.

The statement said that the allegations against Justice Sinha included money laundering, financial irregularities, corruption and moral turpitude.

In August 2018, lawyers toeing the ruling Awami League’s political line held countrywide demonstrations demanding that the observations made in the verdict against the 16th amendment should be immediately withdrawn by Justice Sinha.

On August 1, 2018, the Appellate Division had released its full verdict on the 16th amendment.

Justice SK Sinha published a book titled ‘A Broken Dream: Rule of Law, Human Rights and Democracy’ in 2019 from the United States.

The former chief justice wrote in the book that he was forced to leave the country after he penned the unanimous verdict on the 16th amendment to the constitution.

Justice SK Sinha also claimed in the book that the money in question was transferred to his bank account as the sale proceeds of his house.

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