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Graft Case

Indictment of ex-health DG Azad, Shahed postponed

  • Staff Correspondent
  • 8 April, 2022 12:00 AM
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A Dhaka court has deferred the indictment in a graft case against former director general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Md Abul Kalam Azad and five others responding to the defence team’s petition for more time to prepare their case.

Judge Al Asad Md Asifuzzaman of Dhaka’s Special Court-6 fixed May 12 for the indictment though the hearing of the charges was scheduled to take place on Thursday.

The case has been brought by the Anti-Corruption Commission and it stems from the irregularities found in the health directorate’s deal with the scam-tainted Regent Hospital. Azad is accused of signing a coronavirus treatment deal with Regent, an unlicensed hospital.

Disgraced businessman Mohammad Shahed, the chairman of Regent Hospital, former DGHS director Aminul Hasan, deputy director Yunus Ali, assistant director Shafiur Rahman and research officer Didarul Islam are also implicated in the case.

Shahed, who is currently in prison, appeared in court on Thursday. He was joined by Azad, who is out on bail, and the other accused.

Farid Ahmed Patwary, the deputy director of the national anti-graft agency, started the case against the five former DGHS officials and Shahed in September 2021 for embezzling public funds worth Tk 33.4 million.

Azad was not initially a suspect in the case but his name was added after an investigation into the matter.

The DGHS signed the deal with Regent Hospital on March 21 in 2020 following the government’s detection of the first COVID-19 cases but the hospital’s licence to continue operation had expired at the time.

The authorities later shut down two branches of the hospital in Dhaka in July 2020 on allegations that it had issued results without conducting COVID-19 tests and charged patients extra fees even though the costs related to the treatment of the disease were to be covered by the government as part of the deal with the DGHS.

The directorate later said it had signed the contract on orders from high-ups in the health ministry.

Facing criticism over the irregularities in the health sector amid the pandemic, Azad stepped down from his post in July 2020.

According to the case record, after signing the memorandum of understanding, Regent Hospital had the samples of 3,939 patients tested for free at the government lab in the National Institute of Preventive and Social Medicine.

But the hospital ‘illegally’ collected fees of over Tk 13.7 million charging Tk 3,500 from each patient. It also drew over Tk 19.6 million as monthly charges for doctors, nurses, other health workers, officials and staffs.