Authorities fail to produce Khaleda for Niko hearing
Tuesday, 27 May 2008

BNP Chief Khaleda

Prison authorities failed to produce detained former prime minister Khaleda Zia in court Monday for a hearing in the Niko graft case against her.

Seven other accused in the case were taken to the Dhaka special court sited on the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban complex, which set the next hearing date for June 1.

State counsel Mosharraf Hossain Kajal told reporters Khaleda Zia was not produced to the court due to illness.

Khaleda's lawyer Sanaullah Miah said, however: "It is unclear to us why she was not produced in the court. "We know she is doing fine. The case proceedings cannot run without her presence."

Authorities did not notify the court as to why she was not taken produced before the judge, he alleged.

Acting judge Sirajul Islam presided over the proceedings in absence of judge Kamal Uzzaman, of the Special Judge's Court-9, who was on sick leave.

Security was stepped up around the court premises in anticipation of the BNP chairperson's arrival. BNP leaders and supporters thronged the Sangsad Bhaban area and offered prayers for the release of their leader, and her two sons Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman Coco.

The accused, present in court Monday, were former law minister Moudud Ahmed, former state minister AKM Mosharraf Hossain, former acting secretary Khandaker Shahidul Islam, former BAPEX managing director Mir Moynul Hoque, former BAPEX secretary Md Shafiur Rahman, controversial businessman Giasuddin Al Mamun and former Dhaka Club president Selim Bhuiyan.

Mahbubul Alam, assistant director of the Anticorruption Commission, filed the case with Tejgaon Police Station on Dec 9 last year. The ACC submitted a chargesheet against Khaleda and 10 others in the case on May 5.

Khaleda and 10 others stand accused of causing losses to the state amounting to Tk 13,777 crore by connived with gas and oil company Niko Resources Ltd in implementing an "illegal" joint venture agreement soon after the four-party alliance assumed power in October 2001.

The case alleged that Canadian company Niko was "very inefficient" in different aspects, including technical know-how for oil explorations, but the deal was approved in violations of a proper procedure.

The company applied to state minister for energy AKM Mosharraf Hossain to close the deal, but a number of experts from Petrobangla and Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company opposed the agreement, according to the case details.

Khaleda, the then prime minister, allegedly ignored the opinions of the gas experts and took sides with Niko on the deal.

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