The accused also include six officials of the now defunct Farmers Bank
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has filed a case against 11 people, including former chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, and six officials of the now defunct Farmers Bank Ltd, for their alleged involvement in embezzlement, and money laundering.
ACC Director Syed Iqbal Hossain filed the case with the anti-graft watchdog’s Integrated District Office-1 in Dhaka on Wednesday, ACC Secretary Mohammad Delwar Bakth told reporters.
According to case details, Justice Sinha and 10 others have been accused of embezzling Tk4 crore from Farmer’s Bank – which has since been rebranded as Padma Bank Ltd.
This is the first incident in Bangladesh’s history in which a former chief justice is being charged in a case.
The other accused are: former Farmers Bank managing director and CEO AKM Shameem, first vice-presidents Swapan Kumar Roy and Shafiuddin Askaree, senior executive vice-presidents Gazi Salauddin and Ziauddin Ahmed, and vice-president M Lutful Haque.
The other four accused, who were clients of Farmers Bank, are Md Shahjahan, Niranjan Chandra Saha, his uncle Ranajit Chandra Saha, and Ranajit’s wife Santree Roy.
The ACC found that both Niranjan Chandra Saha, and M Shahjahan deposited Tk2 crore each into Sinha’s personal account in Sonali Bank, transferred from their accounts with the Farmers Bank’s Gulshan Branch, by separate pay orders in 2016.
The duo had collected the money through a loan from the same bank, which was processed illegally, and without following due process with the help of the accused bank officials.
Ranajit was allegedly a personal secretary of Sinha’s, and Ranajit and Shahjahan are childhood friends, the ACC found during its investigation.
What the accused committed is a scheduled offence under the Money Laundering Prevention Act, 2012, the case statement says.
The ACC launched an enquiry on April 25, 2018, following up on a complaint from an unknown source, who said Tk4 crore had been deposited in the bank account of former chief justice Sinha from two accounts of Farmers Bank.
The anti-graft watchdog interrogated Shahjahan and Niranjan in this regard, who said they had transferred the money to Sinha as part of the payment for a six-storey building in Uttara, which he had sold to Tangail resident Santree in 2016, their lawyers told reporters on May 6, 2018.
ACC public relations official Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya confirmed then that Shahjahan and Niranjan had been interrogated from 10am to 4pm at the ACC headquarters on May 7, 2018.
The ACC launched the investigation against Sinha four and a half months after he resigned as chief justice on November 10, 2017 amid huge controversies over the 16th amendment of the constitution.
Conflict between Sinha and government
On September 30, 2017, five judges of the Appellate Division held a meeting with President Abdul Hamid, and declared that they could not continue working with the then chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, because of “11 gross allegations of money laundering, financial scams, corruption, and moral degradation” against him.
Two weeks later, Sinha, the first non-Muslim chief justice of Bangladesh, left the country for Australia on October 13, 2017.
In November 2017, Justice Sinha resigned as the chief justice following a row with the government, after the Supreme Court scrapped the 16th amendment to the constitution, stripping parliament of its power to impeach apex court judges.
After resignation, he moved to the US following his trip to Australia.
He drew criticism from the ruling party for observations he made in the verdict.
At an event in Washington, DC in September 2018, Justice Sinha revealed that he had sought political asylum in the US.
He made headlines by publishing an autobiography, where he accused the incumbent Awami League-led government of “exiling” him after he had resigned “in the face of intimidation, and threats.”
Also in September 2018, Bangladesh National Alliance (BNA) Chairman Barrister Nazmul Huda filed a case against the former chief justice with Shahbagh police station in Dhaka for allegedly demanding a bribe.
The plaintiff alleged that the former chief justice had changed the verdict of a case against him in spite of the fact that the case had earlier been disposed of by the High Court in his favour.
Sinha allegedly demanded Tk2 crore in cash, and half of a bank guarantee of Tk2.5 crore as a bribe from Huda to dispose off the case.
In October 2018, the ACC launched an enquiry into Ananta Kumar Sinha, Surendra Kumar Sinha’s brother, for money laundering, and other financial crimes.
The enquiry was launched, based on allegations of amassing illegal wealth, and money laundering, and that he had purchased a house worth $280,000 in the US.