The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hasina faces extortion case

Dhaka, April 9 (AP): Bangladesh’s former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was accused today of demanding money from a businessman to allow his company to build a power plant in 1998, when she was still in office.

Businessman Tajul Islam Farooq complained to the police he paid Hasina 30 million takas ($441,000) to get his project approved by the government, said a senior police official handling the case. Police were investigating the allegations, he added.

Farooq claimed he handed the money in cash directly to Hasina — who served as Bangladesh’s Prime Minister from 1996-2001 — at her office in Dhaka, the police official said.

Hasina, leader of the Awami League party, is currently in the US visiting her children who live there. Her party’s officials were not immediately available for comment.

Nearly 60 politicians, mostly belonging to former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), including her elder son Tarique Rahman, were grilled as part of a massive anti-graft campaign since the reconstituted interim government under Fakhruddin Ahmed assumed office.

But Hasina was the first party chief to face such corruption charge. Police said if the allegations were proved to be true after a primary investigation, an arrest warrant would be issued against Hasina. If convicted in a trial, she could face maximum five years in jail.

According to the Bangladesh constitution, a person is not be eligible to contest the polls if he or she is sentenced to at least two years in jail on graft charges.

Bangladesh has been ruled by a military-backed interim government since January. President Iajuddin Ahmed declared the state of emergency on January 11 and indefinitely postponed a general election planned for January 22.

No new date has been set for the vote.

The government said the emergency was needed to quell violent street protests between the supporters of Hasina and her arch rival Khaleda Zia, another former Prime Minister. Violence left more than 30 people dead.

On Saturday, Hasina called the interim authority headed by Ahmed, who is a former central bank governor, “undemocratic and unconstitutional”. The election commission said last week balloting will be delayed by at least a year and a half to allow it to prepare a flawless voter roll.

Hasina said that was too long for the country to wait.

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