Former Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha was the primary beneficiary of illegal loans approved for him in violation of Farmers Bank’s credit policy, a Dhaka court observed in its verdict yesterday.
The court sentenced Sinha to seven years in prison for money laundering and an additional four years for breach of trust to be served simultaneously.
Judge Shaikh Nazmul Alam of the Court of Special Judge-4 also sentenced eight other people to prison terms of three to four years in a corruption case filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission against Sinha and 10 others. Seven of the defendants were present in the crowded courtroom.
Sinha, who is believed to be in the United States, was fined 45 lakh Tk, failing which he will have to serve an additional six months in prison.
The court asked the authorities concerned to confiscate 78 lakh Tk from a bank in Dhaka, now Padma Bank, account of Sinha’s nephew, Shankhajit Sinha, in favor of the state. Judge Sinha deposited the money into Shankhajit’s account.
The 182-page verdict mentioned that the five former convicted officials of the Farmers Bank branch in Gulshan illegally and dishonestly forwarded loan proposals to its head office for sanctioning two loans of Tk 2 crore each, violating banking laws.
Violating the bank’s credit policy, the head office then illegally and dishonestly approved the loans that were disbursed to the disgraced Chief Justice’s account.
“The proceeds of loans are the proceeds of crime; therefore, crediting the loan amount to SK Sinha’s account makes him the accomplice and the primary beneficiary, ”the verdict observed.
Former Farmers Bank Managing Director AKM Shamim was sentenced to four years in prison and fined Tk 50,000, failing which he would have to serve an additional six months.
The court sentenced the former executive vice-president of bank Gazi Salauddin, the first vice-presidents Swapan Kumar Roy and Shafiuddin Askary Ahmed, the vice-president Lutful Haque and the former chairman of the audit committee of the bank Mahbubul Haque Chisty alias Babul Chisty to three years in prison.
Two other defendants Ranjit Chandra Saha and his wife Santri Roy Simi were sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of 10,000 Tk each. Failure to pay would mean three more months in prison.
Bastard, Swapan, Shafiuddin and Lutful were each fined 25,000 Tk and Mahbubul was fined 10,000 Tk. Failure to pay would mean three more months in prison.
The verdict indicates that Mahbubul influenced relevant bank officials to sanction the loan.
Businessmen Md Shahjahan and Niranjan Chandra Saha were acquitted.
“In good faith, Shahjahan and Niranjan both signed documents which were used to grant loans on their behalf, but they were not the beneficiaries.”
They were victims of Ranjit fraud, the court said.
Among those convicted, Shamim, Salahuddin, Swapan, Lutful and Mahbubul are in prison while SK Sinha, Shafiuddin, Ranjit and Santri have fled.
The sentence of convicted fugitives will take effect from the date of their arrest or surrender.
ACC attorney Mir Ahmed Ali Salam said it was the first time in Bangladesh that a former chief justice had been convicted.
Lawyer Shahinur Islam, who represented the accused, said his clients would challenge the verdict in a higher court.
A total of 21 prosecution witnesses testified in court, Salam said.
In October 2018, ACC said it found evidence of fraud involving Tk 4 crore transactions borrowed with forged documents by two businessmen Shahjahan and Niranjan of Farmers Bank. The money was later deposited into Judge Sinha’s account.
On July 10, 2019, ACC Director Syed Iqbal Hossain filed the transplant file with his Integrated District-1 office in Dhaka.
On December 8 of the same year, ACC director Benjir Ahammad filed a complaint against Sinha and the 10 other defendants. The court laid charges against them on August 13 of last year.
Judge Sinha resigned as chief justice on November 11, 2017, from overseas.
Speaking to reporters in his office, Justice Minister Anisul Huq said, “I am not very happy. [SK Sinha] had been involved in justice. He was the chief justice of the country. This [conviction] can’t be nice to me.
“It has been proven by the verdict that no one is above the law. Those who hold constitutional or important public offices must be accountable for their activities. They must be careful and maintain transparency and accountability. I think an example has been set through this verdict. “