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Graft swoop to spare no one: Bangla

Dhaka, Feb. 5 (Reuters): No one will be spared in Bangladesh’s crackdown on corruption, advisers to the interim government said today, a day after a dramatic swoop by security forces on 20 senior politicians.

“We don’t want to chase small fish, but have launched the crackdown to grab the big fish first,” said M.A. Matin, adviser to the administration charged with organising an election after weeks of political violence derailed plans for a January poll.

People across the impoverished South Asian country were glued to their television sets yesterday for news of the arrests, which came almost a month after a state of emergency was declared.

Joint forces led by the army detained a media tycoon and seven former ministers in swoops on homes across Dhaka.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) yesterday hailed the crackdown and arrests.

“Many vital projects could not be implemented due to them. Now we hope to finish those projects during the rule of the caretaker government,” ADB country chief Hua Du said at a meeting with the government's foreign affairs adviser, Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury.

This afternoon, the arrested politicians — including former minister Nazmul Huda of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Mohammad Nasim of the Awami League — were taken to a Dhaka magistrate’s court by police .

Lawyers said they would probably be given one month’s detention in jail while charges are framed for their trial.

Newspapers said that over 100 “big names” from the two main political parties — the BNP of former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia and the Awami League of her predecessor and bitter rival Sheikh Hasina — had gone into hiding after the raids began before dawn yesterday.

“We mean business, and will do what we say ... that is crush corruption and punish the godfathers,” said Mainul Hussein, another adviser of the interim authority headed by former central bank chief Fakhruddin Ahmed. “So no one will be spared.”

Those detained included seven powerful former ministers, a leading businessman, the son of Khaleda’s finance minister and her parliamentary affairs adviser.

The last to be detained last evening was Musaddek Ali, a close Khaleda associate and owner of two television channels and a daily newspaper.

Officials said they had prepared a long list of people being sought both within and outside the political arena.

Hussein said steps were also being taken to reform and strengthen the anti-corruption commission. Bangladesh was ranked among the 10 most corrupt countries in the world last year by Transparency International's corruption perception index. The election originally planned for January 22 was postponed after a multi-party alliance led by Hasina accused former election commissioners of being biased towards Khaleda.

New poll chief

A. T. M. Shamsul Huda, a retired bureaucrat, has been appointed as Bangladesh’s new chief election commissioner, the information ministry said in a brief statement.

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