A special court in Dhaka has fixed May 23 to start recording testimony in the much-talked-about Niko graft case against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, opening the trial 16 years after Bangladesh Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case.
Judge Sheikh Hafizur Rahman issued the order after framing charges against the accused on Sunday, said Khaleda’s counsel Syed Zainul Abedin Mesbah.
Masud Ahmed Talukder, a lawyer representing the ailing BNP chief, was present in court on the three-time prime minister’s behalf, as she skipped the court appearance for health reasons.
The Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case in December 2007, after the military-backed caretaker government arrested the BNP chief.
According to case documents and court filings, the defence had requested dozens of deferrals.
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 – died and subsequently were dropped from the list of suspects.
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.