Barapukuria coal theft calls for an expeditious trial

Published: 00:00, Jul 23,2019


THE Anti-Corruption Commission finally on Sunday approved charges against seven former managing directors and 16 other officials of Barapukuria Coal Mining Company Ltd for their suspected involvement in the theft of 1,48,000 tonnes of coal, valued at Tk 2.43 billion, from the mine field, which was detected in July 2018, forcing the closure of the thermal power plant near the mine on July 22 because of the shortage of coal that caused disruption in power supply in the Rangpur division. Part of the coal that was extracted from the mine until July 19, 2018, since 2008, was supplied to power plants, part was sold to private entities and part was used by the company to run the boilers. But only a fiftieth of the coal that should have been there was left on the mine field on July 18. The Anti-Corruption Commission set up a team on July 23 for the investigation and the coal mining company’s manager on July 24 filed a case against 19 officials, former and serving, of the company. The case was later forwarded to the commission for investigation, which spanned about a year. The commission’s team has found nine more officials involved in the theft and dropped charges against five of the accused.

The commission’s public relations officer says, as New Age reported on Monday, that the charge sheet would soon be submitted to a court in Dinajpur. It is hoped, in such a situation, that the authorities concerned would expeditiously carry out the trial, rolling down to conviction, in cases where the suspects are proved guilty, in a deterrent way so that the theft of national resources does not happen again. And it is further hoped that the suspects would be arrested in view of the fact that it could play deterrent role in holding back others from committing such crimes. Three other committees — by Petrobangla or the Bangladesh Oil, Gas and Mineral Corporation, the energy ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office — were set up in July that year. The report that the Petrobangla committee prepared is still lying with Petrobangla. The technical investigation committee that Petrobangla set up identified the theft or disappearance of coal as ‘systems loss’ in line with what the mining company board on December 6, 2018 did and it is reported to have created a problem in the commission’s investigation early April. Petrobangla, which manages the coal mining company, should make the report public.

The investigation, under the circumstances, should begin soon with the concomitant arrest of the suspects and the trial should be conducted expeditiously as a delayed process would only encourage others to get engaged in the plundering of national resources. The authorities concerned must also look into why the company’s board and the Petrobangla committee tried to pass off the disappearances of such a huge amount of coal as ‘systems loss.’ The government must also hold to account the Petrobangla authorities for giving reward, as it was reported in April, to the accused, then still working in their previous positions in the company, being given other charges and being promoted.

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