After six years and a half, two prosecution witnesses (PWs) of the gold smuggling case filed against former president HM Ershad appeared and gave their deposition before a Dhaka court yesterday.
But the two witnesses — Fakir Ashraf, former joint collector of National Board of Revenue and Pandab Chandra Barman, assistant arms and explosives expert of Dhaka deputy commissioner’s office — told the court that they knew nothing about the case.
The investigation officer (IO) of Criminal Investigation Department included witnesses who knew nothing about the case, Additional Public Prosecutor Golam Mostafa Khan told The Daily Star, adding that he did not find any reasons why such persons were made witnesses of the case.
The last date of recording deposition of the PW-3 Azimuddin Ahmed, the then secretary of energy and mineral resources ministry, was on February 14, 2000 and since then no witnesses appeared before the court, although all steps had been taken for producing witnesses for their statements.
But the trial court on August 27 issued non-bailable arrest warrants against the rest six witnesses of the case. Following the order, three witnesses out of six appeared before the court yesterday to give their statements.
Judge (in charge) Mohammad Monzurul Bachhid of the Fourth Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Court recorded statements of two witnesses and fixed October 1 for next hearing of the case. The court could not record the statement of another witness for want of time.
On August 27, the same court adjourned the hearing of the case until yesterday following a time petition from the prosecution.
A team of customs officials held four people including two foreign nationals at Zia International Airport (ZIA) on July 17, 1990 when they were attempting to smuggle 3,000 tola gold worth around Tk 2.5 crore into Bangladesh, the prosecution said.
A smuggling case was filed against the four — Bernhard Rudiger of Germany, David Anthony Chalmar Chaker of England, the then manager of ZIA Major (rtd) Ashraf Uddin Sekender and Abu Taher, a security guard of ZIA — with the Cantonment Police Station the same day.
During the investigation, the IO found evidence of Ershad’s involvement in the smuggling and his name was included in the charge sheet.
Rudiger, Chalmar Chaker, Ashraf and Taher were convicted and sent to prison on different terms on May 14, 1992.
The trial against Ershad did not start due to a stay order from the higher court.
CASE AGAINST MANJU
Another Dhaka court yesterday framed charges against former energy and mineral resources minister Anwar Hossain Manju in connection with a graft case, although Ershad was discharged from the case due to insufficient evidence on August 24.
Manju pleaded not guilty and demanded justice before the court after Judge Malik Abdullah Al Amin of the Special Court for Dhaka Division framed charge against him.
Manju and then president Ershad awarded a contract to Scimitar Oils for drilling and exploring 1,650 square kilometres of area in Haripur oil field in 1987, causing a huge loss of $79,000 to the public exchequer, according to the case filed with Tejgaon Police Station.
Later, an official of the defunct Bureau of Anti-Corruption filed case against Ershad and Manju and the IO pressed charges against them saying that the charges brought against the two were primarily proved.
Earlier, within a period of one month, Ershad was acquitted of four graft cases. Hearings of three more cases will be held on September 20 and 27.
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