Former Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha has been sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment and eight others have been jailed for different terms in a case filed for laundering Tk 4 crore.
Judge Shaikh Nazmul Alam of the Special Judge’s Court-4 of Dhaka handed down the verdict on Tuesday at the jam-packed courtroom in the much-talked-about money laundering case.
The court, however, said both punishments of SK Sinha will run concurrently. It also asked the authorities concerned to confiscate Tk 78 lakh from him in favour of the state.
In the verdict, the court also sentenced former managing director of Farmers Bank AKM Shamim to four years in prison and fined him Tk 50,000 in the graft case.
The court also awarded three years in jail to five other officials of the private bank. They are former senior executive vice-president Gazi Salauddin, first vice presidents Swapon Kumar Ray and Shafiuddin Askary, former chairman of the bank’s audit committee Mahbubul Haque Chisty and vice-president Md Lutful Haque, and fined each Tk 25,000. Two other accused—Ranjit Chandra Saha and his wife Shanti Roy, residents of Tangail — have also been sentenced to three years in jail and fined Tk 10,000 each.
The court, however, acquitted businessman Md Shahjahan and Niranjan Chandra Saha of the charges as the allegations against them were not proven.
Of the nine convicts, four --- SK Sinha, Shafiuddin, Ranjit and Santri --- have been absconding since the case was filed while the rest of the convicts are now in jail.
The court said the accused bank officials violated the banking laws and rules and credit policy and illegally forwarded the credit proposals to the bank’s head office and that the head office illegally sanctioned the loan.
The court also observed that in the name of sanctioning loans, Farmers Bank illegally diverted the money in the account of former Chief Justice SK Sinha.
“He (SK Sinha) is the principal beneficiary of the loan illegally credited to his account,” it added.
The court also said Tk 4 crore transferred to SK Sinha’s account are the proceeds of crime and SK Sinha knowingly moved, converted and transferred the money and concealed the illicit nature of the money, it source and location.
SK Sinha is the first former Chief Justice of Bangladesh who was convicted in such a corruption case.
Soon after the verdict, Law Minister Anisul Huq in his reaction told journalists that none is above law but it is shocking news for the judiciary.
“I’m not happy today because he (SK Sinha) had been involved with the judiciary. It is proved that anybody will have to face punishment for committing crime. The court has found the proof of his crime and given the verdict.”
The law minister also said, “Anyone who is appointed by the government or the state should properly discharge his/her duty. That is the lesson to be learned from the court’s judgment.”
Earlier, the court completed the trial on September 14 by wrapping up the closing arguments in the case.
A total of 21 prosecution witnesses testified before the court during the trial proceedings since the trial started on August 13 last year against the 11 accused in the graft case.
The ACC in October, 2018 said the commission found evidence of fraud involving transactions of Tk 4 crore borrowed with fake documents by two businessmen Shahjahan and Niranjan from the Farmers Bank (now Padma Bank). Later, the money was deposited in SK Sinha’s account.
On July 10 in 2019, the ACC filed the case with its Integrated District Office-1 in Dhaka against SK Sinha and 10 others.
Justice Sinha came to light over his verdict to scrap the 16th amendment to the constitution, which restored parliament’s power to sack top judges on the grounds of incapability and misconduct.
He left the country on leave in October 2017. About six weeks later, he submitted his resignation from abroad nearly three months before the end of his term to become the first Chief Justice in the history of Bangladesh to quit. He now lives in the US.
Justice Sinha was appointed to the apex court as the chief justice in January 2015, with his term scheduled to end on January 31, 2018.
Following his resignation, the Supreme Court in a statement said Justice Sinha was facing 11 specific charges, including corruption, money laundering, financial irregularities, and moral blunder.