Dhaka: A Bangladesh court on Thursday handed a seven-year jail term to the son of opposition leader and former prime minister Khaleda Zia, Tarique Rahman, in a money laundering case.
The bench of Justice Enayetur Rahim and Justice Amir Hossain quashed the trial court's verdict of November 2013 acquitting the eldest son of Zia.
Rahman, who lives in London, was also fined Taka 20.41 crore, said Khurshid Alam Khan, a lawyer for the Anti-Corruption Commission, which had appealed against the previous judgment.
Law Minister Anisul Huq said that trial court judge Md Motahar Hossain, who had acquitted Rahman of money laundering charges, was "influenced".
"The judge fled to Malaysia with his family two days after delivering the verdict. He has not returned despite being served a notice," he told the media.
The High Court upheld the trial court's verdict which sentenced Giasuddin-Al-Mamun, close business associate of Rahman, to seven years of jail but commuted his financial penalty to Taka 200 million.
The ACC filed the case against Rahman and Mamun in October, 2009 for siphoning off the money to Singapore between 2003 and 2007.
Rahman's lawyer Zainul Abedin denied any involvement of his client in the case and said the future course of appeal will only be decided after scrutinising the prospects.
A pro-BNP lawyer told The Daily Star that Rahman cannot move appeal as he was a fugitive in the eyes of the law, living in London on parole for eight years.
Asked if Tarique, living in Britain since 2008, could appeal against the High court verdict, Law Minister Huq said, "He can do so only if we are able bring him back or he turns himself in."
Haq assured that the government would pursue every legal measure to bring Rahman back and make him serve his sentence.
The High Court directed the lower court concerned to issue a conviction warrant against Rahman.
Since "convict Md Tarique Rahman has been absconding" the sentence of imprisonment as awarded shall be executed after causing his arrest or when he surrenders before the trial court, it said, the Daily Star reported.
The laundered money Taka 20 crore will be kept within Bangladesh Bank until realisation of fine, it added.
The BNP said the High Court had reversed the lower court's verdict on Rahman to "please the government".
Calling it "a deep-seated conspiracy", BNP's senior leader Ruhul Kabir Rizvi told media that Rahman was not involved in the money laundering case.
Rizvi condemned "in strongest terms the government's ploy to frame Tarique".
He described it as a ploy to "destroy the Zia family".
"We expect the higher judiciary to live up to the traditions of justice and impartiality so that people can retain faith in it," Rizvi added.
Rizvi said the BNP will discuss the verdict in detail before taking a decision on how to protest.
Rahman, who faces trial for several charges, was arrested on March 7, 2007, during the Bangladesh state of emergency.
In September 2008, after securing bail from the Supreme Court, Rahman went to Britain citing medical reasons.
Rahman has been in London ever since and also attends some BNP events in Dhaka.
The High Court also ordered the ACC to take necessary steps in accordance with law to prosecute Md Moyazzam Hosen, Chairman of Hosaf Group, Khadiza Islam, Chairman of Nirman Construction, Mayer Sairee, and Marina Zaman who were the parties in the process of laundering money and aided the convicted persons in gaining the laundered money, Daily Star said.
With IANS Inputs