Judge Sheikh Nazmul Alam of Dhaka's Special Judge's Court-4 found them guilty on Thursday.
A total of 46 suspects stand accused of misappropriating nearly Tk 18.61 billion in a case that brought the charges.
The other 44 suspects also received prison sentences of varying lengths, including Chairman Mohammad Hossain, who was handed down 10 years in jail. Harun-Ar-Rashid received the shortest prison term among all the suspects.
The court also slapped all the suspects with fines totalling Tk 23 billion. Of this amount, Harun-Ar-Rashid will have to pay Tk 35 million, Rafiqul Amin Tk 2 billion, and Mohammad Hossain Tk 15 million.
The judge ordered the confiscation of Destiny’s frozen assets and money deposited in banks.
The fines will be distributed among the shareholders and investors. The court formed a committee to oversee the compensation for the victims of the misappropriation.
A retired Supreme Court judge will head the committee. The members will include deputy secretary-level officials of the finance ministry and the cooperatives ministry, a deputy inspector general of police, a chartered accountant, and the registrar of the Department of Cooperatives.
Asked how long it would take before the victims could expect to receive their compensation, a lawyer familiar with the case said it would become clear once the entirety of the verdict – about 1,000 pages in length – was released.
The court heard 202 witnesses for the state in the case started by the Anti-Corruption Commission against the Destiny Multipurpose Cooperative Society 10 years ago, ACC lawyer Mir Ahmed Ali Salam previously said.
Destiny Group Chairman Hossain and MD Rafiqul had been behind bars for the last 10 years, while Harun was out on bail prior to the verdict.
The ACC filed two cases against the group, one against the Destiny Multipurpose Cooperative Society and the other against the Destiny Tree Plantation Project, on July 31, 2012, with Kalabagan police in Dhaka.
In May 2014, the national graft-busting agency submitted charges in both cases at the end of the investigation. Nineteen people were accused in the case against Destiny Tree Plantation Ltd, while 46 were accused in the Destiny Multipurpose Cooperative Society case.
Harun and Rafiqul are accused in both cases.
The ACC found out that Destiny collected Tk 19.01 billion for the Multipurpose Cooperative Project in 2008 and embezzled Tk 18.61 billion from there, causing losses to 850,000 investors.
According to the charges, the group had collected Tk 24.45 billion through the Destiny Tree Plantation project from investors since 2008 and embezzled around Tk 22.57 billion.
More than 1.7 million investors fell victim to this misappropriation.
The investigation report mentioned that Destiny Group has 28 units under its name. The accused deposited the money collected in the bank accounts of those organisations and later transferred the money to accounts in other banks.
The ACC found 722 such accounts in 34 banks. All of them, however, have been frozen.
The cases also allege that the embezzled money was laundered.
MINIMUM PUNISHMENT OF HARUN
The court said the charges against Harun were proved beyond any doubt.
But he was given the minimum punishment set by the law because of his contribution to the Liberation War. The government had conferred the Bir Pratik gallantry title on Harun for the role he played in the war.
M Mainul Islam, the lawyer for Harun, denied the charges of embezzlement, claiming no money was transferred to his client’s account as he never handled Destiny’s assets.
“The punishment meted out to him is unlawful,” he said, adding that they would challenge the verdict in the High Court.
Mir Abdus Salam, the ACC counsel, described the verdict as a “milestone”. “The convicts have been given exemplary punishment for embezzling the money of the investors.”
Harun and the other accused were silent after the verdict was read out.
After the other convicts were escorted from the courtroom, Harun waited there for around two hours. His relatives consoled him at the time as he wiped his tears.
The court ordered prison authorities to take steps following the Jail Code after Mainul filed a petition seeking advanced medical treatment for Harun.
Harun was admitted to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University later in the afternoon, said Mahbubul Alam, jailor of Dhaka Central Jail.
Brig Gen Nazrul Islam Khan, director of BSMMU, said Harun was admitted to the CCU with cardiac problems.
The 74-year old freedom fighter from Chattogram’s Hathazari joined the 1971 war when he was working in the Fourth East Bengal Regiment. He became army chief in December 2000. After retirement in June 2002, the government made him the high commissioner to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.
Harun was the member secretary of Sector Commanders’ Forum during its formation. He was relieved of duty after the Destiny scam.
He joined Destiny in 2006 before its business operations widened.
He and Rafiqul were arrested in 2012 amid an outcry of the investors. Harun later secured bail due to his health and social position.