A Bangladesh court sentenced on Thursday Arafat Rahman Koko, the younger son of former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia, to six years in prison for laundering $2.7 million received as kickbacks from foreign companies, court officials said.
The verdict could fuel street protests by Khaleda's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its Islamist allies who say the charges against Koko were politically motivated and pushed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government.
Khaleda and Hasina are both the relatives of men who used to rule the country and the bitter rivalry between the women has overshadowed the country's politics for years.
Khaleda's BNP, the main opposition party, and its allies have already launched a campaign against Hasina's government, particularly against a plan to scrap a system of holding national elections under a non-party caretaker administration.
Koko was charged for laundering the funds, which the prosecution said he had received as bribes for helping companies win government contracts, through bank accounts in Singapore while Khaleda was prime minister during a 2001-2006 tenure.
"The verdict was pre-planned and politically motivated," said Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, acting secretary-general for the BNP.
The court also ordered Ismail Hossain Saimon, son of a former shipping minister and the co-accused in the case, to six years in prison, court officials said.
It also asked Koko and Saimon, who were tried and sentenced in absentia, to pay a fine of $5 million.
Businessman Koko has been staying in Bangkok since 2008 after he was released on parole for medical treatment while Saimon is on the run.
Both Koko and his elder brother, Tareque Rahman, political heir apparent to his mother, were arrested under a crackdown on graft by an army-backed interim government that ruled for two years under emergency rule from 2007.
Hasina, Khaleda and many other prominent politicians were also detained during the crackdown. Hasina and Khaleda were both released before elections in 2008.
Tareque also faces charges of corruption and is on parole for medical treatment abroad. They denied any wrongdoing.