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Task Force to look into graft charges against Hasina

The move comes as a court ordered the police to submit an initial probe report by May 10.

world Updated: Apr 11, 2007 13:17 IST

A high-powered task force will oversee investigations into graft charges against former Bangladesh Prime Minister and Awami League (AL) chief Sheikh Hasina, who plans to return home soon from her US visit.

The move comes as a court ordered the police to submit an initial probe report by May 10, officials said on Tuesday.

"The government plans to get the investigation done by the National Task Force considering the gravity of the allegation and the person concerned," Communication Adviser of the interim government under emergency-ruled Bangladesh retired major general Abdul Matin told reporters.

His comment came two days after chairman of a private sector power plant lodged the case alleging that the former premier, now in the United States on a private visit, "extorted" Taka three crore (local currency) using threats in 1998 ahead of allowing him to install the 110 MW plant.

"It is an old case. So, it needs adequate investigation," Matin, who himself heads the National Task Force on severe crimes and corruptions, said.

Meanwhile, Awami League in a statement late on Tuesday called the charge "motivated and part of a plot" and said Sheikh Hasina would return home by the next 10 days cutting short her visit to face the charge.

"It's an absurd charge. Why the case was lodged after so many years while the subsequent BNP government was in power for five years and exhausted all its efforts to harass our party leaders and workers," acting AL president Zillur Rahman told a private television channel on Wednesday.

The Malaysia-based Bangladeshi chairman of the Westmont Power Plant Tajul Islkam Faruque, however, continued to evade the media since filing the case on Monday.

Officials said police on Wednesday launched the primary investigation into graft charge against former premier as ordered by the court and if the allegations appeared true after the primary investigation, arrest warrant would be issued against her.

Legal experts said if convicted in trial, Sheikh Hasina could face as high as five years in jail under the charge while according to Bangladesh constitution, a person will not be eligible for contesting the polls if he or she is sentenced to at least two years in jail on such graft charges.

Nearly 60 high-profile politicians, mostly belonging to immediate past premier 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 a day after Bangladesh came under emergency rule on January 11.