Two Canadian police officers have testified in a case against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and seven others over corruption in the Niko gas exploration and extraction deal.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police members Lloyd Schoepp and Kevin Duggan appeared before Judge Sheikh Hafizur Rahman of the Special Judge's Court-9 of Dhaka in the makeshift court set up inside the Dhaka Central Jail in Keraniganj on Monday.
Schoepp's hour-long testimony, involving his statement and cross-examination, was completed, while Duggan's testimony was ongoing, and the next session is set for Tuesday, said Hannan Bhuiyan, one of the lawyers for Khaleda.
Attorney General AM Amin Uddin represented the state alongside ACC senior lawyer Mosharraf Hossain Kajol at the hearing, while lawyer Aminul Islam conducted the questioning on behalf of Khaleda, according to Hannan.
Hannan claimed the two Canadians did not specify Khaleda’s involvement in the case.
According to the ACC lawyer, Kashem Sharif, Niko's vice president of South Asia affairs, made an agreement to secure work for Bangladesh's gas field, and the Canadian police officers' testimony revealed how the bribe money was moved to the South Asian country through intermediaries.
It is rare for foreigners to testify in Bangladesh cases, with one example being a US Federal Bureau of Investigation agent testifying in a money laundering case against Khaleda’s eldest son, Tarique Rahman.
In that case, the High Court sentenced the BNP's acting chairman to seven years in prison and fined him Tk 200 million, and he faced convictions in several other cases later on.
Judge Hafizur Rahman indicted Khaleda and seven others accused in the Niko case on Mar 19, opening the trial 16 years after the anti-graft watchdog filed the suit.
Charges were pressed against 11 people, including Khaleda, in 2008, for allegedly costing the state Tk 137 billion in losses by awarding a gas exploration contract to Niko Resources, a Canadian oil and gas company. Two suspects – AKM Mosharraf Hossain and Barrister Moudud Ahmed – have died.
Kamaluddin Siddiqui, principal secretary to the former prime minister, Meer Moynul Haque, former senior general manager of BAPEX, Shafiur Rahman, former secretary of BAPEX and Kashem Sharif, vice president (South Asia) of Niko Resources Bangladesh Ltd were among the suspects in the case.
Khaleda, convicted of graft in two other cases, is out on suspended sentences following a government order.