Court allows 3 foreigners to testify against Khaleda Zia

BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia
File photo

A Dhaka court on Sunday allowed a former US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) official and two members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to testify against BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia in the Niko graft case.

Judge Sheikh Hafizur Rahman of Dhaka Special Judge Court 9 (temporary), situated in Dhaka Central Jail in Keraniganj, passed the order after hearing in this regard, said the BNP chairperson's lawyer Masud Ahmed Talukder.

The foreign officials are Debra LaPrevotte Griffith of the FBI, and Kelvin Duggan and Lloyd Schoepp of Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Earlier, attorney general AM Amin Uddin filed an application seeking permission to produce the witnesses before the court.

The court was scheduled to cross-examine the then-assistant director of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Mohammad Mahbubul Alam.

However, the lawyers of the accused appealed to postpone the interrogation, stating that there is no preparation.

The court granted the time application and fixed the next date of interrogation on 10 October.

On 9 December, 2007, the ACC 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 against Bangladesh's national interests 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 Moudud Ahmed, former state minister AKM Mosharraf Hossain and former secretary of Bapex 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 8 February, 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 suspending her sentence on 25 March, 2020, with the condition that she stay in her Gulshan house and not leave the country.