Hasina to go on trial in warplane purchase case


Dhaka : Bangladesh’s former prime minister Sheikh Hasina will go on trial for having allegedly benefited from the purchase of eight Russian MiG-29 warplanes during her 1996-2001 tenure in office.

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The Dhaka High Court Thursday turned down her petition for quashing the case and admitted the government’s application to resume the trial that had been held in abeyance after a high court order six years ago.

A division bench of Justice Nozrul Islam Chowdhury and Justice M. Ataur Rahman Khan passed the orders, clearing the way for trial proceedings against Hasina and four former high officials, Star Online reported.

The government of Hasina’s political rival, Begum Khaleda Zia, had instituted the case in 2001, alleging that the country had lost Taka seven billion ($1.16 million) in the purchase.

Hasina’s lawyers and the Awami League that she heads say that her government had actually worked to whittle down the price from $289 million to $119 million, saving $170 million.

The purchase was done through floating of international tenders and that there were no irregularities or corruption in the process of purchasing the MiG-29 planes, they maintained.

Parliament’s standing committee in its 32nd meeting examined the process of purchasing the MiG-29 and reported that the contract was gone through according to law.

Hasina’s counsel Shafique Ahmed placed some relevant documents of the International Court of Arbitration (ICA) before the court.

The Hasina government had made major part of the payment while in office. As the Zia government did not pay the remaining amount, Russia filed a case with the ICA. Government lawyers assigned to face the case suggested a compromise under which the remaining amount was paid to the Russian government.

Hasina’s counsel have contended that a few months before the purchase of MIG-29 by Bangladesh, Malaysia purchased MIG-29 from Russia at about one and a half times higher price than that paid by Bangladesh, which is the lowest for that aircraft so far.

Former army chief Lt Gen (retd) Mustafizur Rahman, ex air force chief Air Marshal (retd) Jamal Uddin Ahmed, retired defence secretary Syed Yusuf Hossain, Air Commodore (retd) Mirza Akhtar Maruf, retired defence joint secretary Mohammad Hossain Serniabat and businessman Noor Ali are also named in the charge sheet in the case.