The Zia Orphanage Trust was actually created for the very purpose of misappropriation, with money meant for orphans being used for alternative purposes, a Dhaka court said in its verdict in a corruption case against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.
There was nothing called ‘Zia Orphanage Trust’ in 1991 when a grant of $1.255 million came from the United Saudi Commercial Bank for orphans in Bangladesh, the court said, according to the full text of the verdict released on Monday.
The orphanage trust, which only existed on paper, was created in 1993 with the money having been kept idle in a bank till then. The court, which sentenced Khaleda to jail for corruption on February 8, said when BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia was prime minister between 1991 and 1996; she set up a fund by the name of Prime Minister’s Orphanage Fund.
When money equivalent to TK 4,44,81,216 came to the PM’s fund, it was kept in a bank account. From 1991 to 1993 the money was kept idle. In 1993 as the Zia Orphanage Trust was created and the money was divided in two parts – with only one part of TK 2,33,33,500 going to that trust, the court continued.
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Keeping public money idle for two years in the PM’s fund is a crime, the verdict said. Moreover, half of the money was transferred to the Zia Orphanage Trust, but it has not been spent on the wellbeing of orphans till date; with only 2.79 acres of land being bought, the text added.
Terming the money meant for orphans public money, the judgement said that holding public money for an indefinite period without spending is also punishable under Section 409 of penal code.
The court found that the trust was created as a premeditated measure in order to misappropriate the allocated funds, with all of the accused involved in the crime.
On July 3, 2008, the Anti-Corruption Commission lodged a graft case with the Ramna police station against six members of the BNP including Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia for embezzling Tk2.10 crore meant for orphans.
The five others accused are Khaleda’s son and BNP Senior Vice-President Tarique Rahman, her nephew Mominur Rahman, former MP Kazi Salimul Haque Kamal, businessman Sharfuddin Ahmed, and Dr Kamal Uddin Siddiqui.
Khaleda was sentenced to five years imprisonment, with the rest receiving 10 years of incarceration and fined Tk2.10 crore each by a special court on February 8 this year.