Bangladesh's ruling party lawmaker jailed for 3 years

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) - This is the first time that a ruling party lawmaker has been punished in Bangladesh in a corruption case.

A Dhaka Court yesterday sentenced Awami League lawmaker Abdur Rahman Bodi to three years in prison for 'concealing' and 'deliberately providing false' wealth statement to the Anti-Corruption Commission in March 2014.

The controversial lawmaker from Cox's Bazar was also fined 1 million Taka, in default of which he will have to spend three more months in jail. Three years' imprisonment is the highest punishment for the offence.

This is the first time a ruling party lawmaker has been punished in a corruption case.

The prosecution, however, failed to prove the other charge brought against him for amassing wealth beyond the known sources of his income.

Judge Abu Ahmed Jamadar of Dhaka Special Judge's Court-3 delivered the judgment in a packed courtroom with Bodi standing in the dock.

Hearing the verdict, the AL lawmaker from Cox's Bazar-4 constituency (Teknaf and Ukhiya) burst into tears. Later, the court sent him to Dhaka Central Jail cancelling his bail he had secured from the High Court earlier.

“Accused Abdur Rahman Bodi committed a punishable offence under section 26(2) of Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2004 by deliberately concealing his and his dependants' moveable and immoveable properties, and by giving false information in his wealth statement to the Anti-Corruption Commission with ill motive,” said the judgment.

Reading out the summary of the 73-page judgment, the judge said the prosecution failed to prove the charges against the lawmaker of amassing wealth illegally and thus he was acquitted from the charge.

But the charges of concealing wealth were “undoubtedly proved”, and he was convicted and sentenced for committing such offences.  

The judge said Bodi on June 30, 2013 submitted his income tax return to the National Board of Revenue for fiscal 2013-2014, saying his neat wealth was Tk 9,19, 67,565.

In his wealth statement to the Election Commission on December 2, 2013 before the national polls, Bodi declared that he had wealth of Tk 10,98,92,723.

On March 20, 2014, he submitted a wealth statement to the ACC, mentioning that he had wealth of Tk 5,35,58,278 in moveable and immovable assets.    

In this way, Bodi concealed wealth of Tk 5,63, 34,444, and thus the charge of submitting a false wealth statement was found true, the court said.       

Mahbub Ahmed, a counsel for the AL lawmaker, told The Daily Star that his client would challenge the judgment at the HC.

Mahmud Hossain Jahangir, public prosecutor of the Dhaka court, said he was not fully satisfied with the verdict, as the court acquitted Bodi of one charge.

“I have informed the ACC about the matter, and it will decide on filing an appeal against the verdict.”

Asked, ACC Chairman Iqbal Mahmud declined to comment on the verdict.

“It does not matter how influential a corrupt person is. None will be spared,” he said at a press briefing on the ACC's Annual Report 2015 at the anti-graft body's office in the capital.

DEBATE OVER PARLIAMENTARY MEMBERSHIP

Referring to article 66(2)(d) of the constitution, Khurshid Alam Khan, a lawyer for the ACC, said, “He [Bodi] is no longer a lawmaker, as he has been convicted and is in custody now.”

The article says, “A person shall be disqualified for election as, or for being, a member of parliament who has been, on conviction for a criminal offence involving moral turpitude, sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release.”

Khurshid pointed out that Bodi's parliamentary membership would be restored if the High Court stays or suspends his conviction and sentence.

However, defence counsel Mahboob Ahmed said if the AL lawmaker files an appeal with the HC in due time, his parliamentary membership would not be cancelled.

But if Bodi doesn't do so, it would be deemed that he accepted the verdict, and his members would be cancelled, he said.

BODI'S RHETORIC

After probing the charges against Bodi for about seven months, the ACC filed the case with the capital's Ramna Police Station on August 21, 2014, accusing Bodi of amassing wealth illegally and concealing information in his wealth statement.

Following the filing of lawsuit, Bodi hit out at the ACC and claimed all along that he was not involved in corruption.

At a programme on September 15, 2014, Bodi said he would reveal "all secrets" of the ACC and its then Chairman Mohammad Badiuzzaman if it tried to prove him corrupt.

"I am making a request at this meeting…. respected Mr Badiuzzaman, the ACC chairman, your name is Bodi and mine is Bodi too. If one Bodi wants to drive out another Bodi, every secret will be disclosed," Bodi said at a discussion organised to mark the National Income Tax Day in Chittagong.

Bodi said he would step down as a lawmaker if anyone could prove his involvement in corruption.

On October 12, 2014, Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court sent Bodi to jail upon his surrender in connection with the corruption case. But he later secured bail from the HC.

On September 8 last year, the Special Judge's Court-3 framed charges against Bodi and started trial in the case on October 6. Bodi pleaded not guilty before the court, while 13 prosecution witnesses gave testimony to prove the charges.

A CONTROVERSIAL FIGURE

Since his previous term as MP, Bodi has been mired in controversy.

He hogged newspaper headlines several times for assaulting school teachers, forest and bank officials, an engineer of the Department of Roads and Highways, a freedom fighter, and a lawyer, among many others.

On August 12 last year, Bodi beat up Mostofa Minhaz, Ukhia upazila engineer, allegedly for not attending an Upazila Parishad meeting.

His name was on a list of suspected yaba smugglers, prepared by the Department of Narcotics Control in 2014. His three brothers, brother-in-laws and some other relatives have also been listed as traders of the contraband drug.

Bodi, however, all along denied the allegations.

Four cases were filed against him on charges of murder, rape and repressing women while he was the mayor of Teknaf municipality during the tenure of the last BNP-led alliance government.

But all those were withdrawn as “politically motivated cases” during the previous tenure of the AL government when he was a ruling party lawmaker.

Thaha Yahiya, an independent candidate from Cox's Bazar-4 constituency in the January 2014 election, filed a case against Bodi with an election tribunal for vote rigging and other allegations. The case is now pending with the tribunal.

Source(s)

  • Graft: Bangladesh's ruling party lawmaker jailed 3yrs

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