Former chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha has been convicted on graft charges and sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment for laundering Tk 4 crore from a bank.
A Dhaka court awarded the jail sentence to SK Sinha on two counts of graft in a case over the laundering of Tk four crore from the Farmers Bank, now known as Padma Bank.
Judge of the Dhaka Special Judge’s Court-4 Sheikh Nazmul Alam pronounced the verdict on Tuesday (November 9).
SK Sinha was sentenced to seven years in prison for money laundering and another four years for graft. The court also fined him Tk 45 lakh, in default, to suffer six months more rigorous imprisonment. The court also ordered the authorities concerned to confiscate Tk 78 lakh from his bank account.
Both of SK Sinha’s sentences can be served simultaneously, which means he will only have to serve a total of seven years in prison, said lawyers.
The court also sentenced eight other accused in the case to different jail terms while acquitting two others, as allegations brought against them were not proved. The two accused are Md Shahjahan and Niranjan Chandra Saha. Another accused in the case, Md Ziauddin Ahmed was acquitted earlier as he had passed away.
AKM Shameem, former managing director of Farmers Bank, got four years’ imprisonment with a fine of Tk 50,000, while Ranjit Chandra Saha and his wife Santri Roy were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment each with a fine of Tk 10,000.
The remaining four convicts-- Gazi Salahuddin, former senior executive vice president and former head of credit division of the bank, Swapan Kumar Roy, first vice president (credit division), Shafiuddin Ashkari Ahmed, vice president of the bank, Md Lutful Haque, another vice president,-- were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment each and fined Tk 25,000 each.
Among the convicts, SK Sinha, Safiuddin Ashkari, Ranjit Chandra Saha and Santri Roy are absconding. On the other hand, AKM Shameem, Salahuddin, Swapan, Lutful, Shahjahan and Niranjan are now on bail, while Mahbubul is now behind bars.
SK Sinha has been living abroad for the past four years. He now lives in the US.
During the verdict, the judge said, ‘SK Sinha is the principal beneficiary of the laundered money.’
After the pronouncement of the verdict, lawyer of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Mir Ahmed Ali Salam in his reaction said that no one is above the law. No matter how powerful the offender is, if charges brought against him are proved, he must be punished.
Talking to the reporters, the lawyer also said that the judge in his verdict observed that as the state had fully proved what SK Sinha had done during his tenure as chief justice. So he has been sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment on two grounds.
In his reaction, Law Minister Anisul Huq has also said that the verdict pronounced against the former chief justice proves that no one is above the law. He made the reaction in his office.
Anisul Huq said, ‘If anyone is involved in misdeeds, he must be punished. This verdict proves it. However, such a verdict was very necessary, I am not happy. Because SK Sinha was involved with the judiciary. He was the chief justice and I am a lawyer. I have been involved with the judiciary all my life, it can’t be happy for me.’
Reacting to opposition groups’ comments that SK Sinha would not have to face trial if he did not go beyond the submissive stance to the government, the law minister said, “This is not true. Those who are delivering such comments are making the comments just to criticize the government.”
He said that if anyone holds any constitutional or important government post, he must give an account of his activities. The verdict on the SK Sinha graft case has set an example, he added.
Earlier on September 14, the Dhaka court fixed October 5 for pronouncement of the verdict after completion of the closing arguments in the case filed against the former chief justice and others. Later, it was deferred to October 21 due to the illness of the judge.
The court again fixed November 9 to pronounce the verdict in the graft case as the verdict was not ready to be announced on October 21.
According to the case statement, SK Sinha arranged a fake loan of Tk 4 crore from the Gulshan branch of Farmers Bank (now Padma Bank) and transferred the amount to his personal account through pay-order.
SK Sinha later transferred the amount to another account in cash, cheques and pay-orders.
On July 10 in 2019, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed the graft case for embezzling the amount from the bank. ACC Director Syed Iqbal Hossain filed the case at the commission’s District Integrated Office, Dhaka-1.
On December 8 in 2019, ACC Director Md Benjir Ahammad, also the investigation officer of the case, submitted charge-sheet against the accused.
On January 5 in 2020, Dhaka Metropolitan Senior Special Judge KM Imrul Kayes received the charge sheet. Later on August 13, the court framed the charges.
The trial began on August 13 last year through framing of the charges against the 11 accused.