2004 Weapon Haul: 2 Ex-Ministers, 9 Others Accused
Two former ministers were among 11 new suspects accused by Bangladeshi police in a supplementary chargesheet filed today in the country's biggest ever arms haul case of 2004 when 10-truck loads of weapons destined for ULFA hideouts in India were seized.
"We have submitted the supplementary chargesheet today (before a court in southeastern port city of Chittagong) following our extended investigation into the case," an official of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police told PTI.
Former state minister for home Lutfuzzaman Babar and ex-industries minister Matiur Rahman Nizami of the past BNP-led government and ex-chiefs of the two intelligence agencies and United Liberation Front of Assom (ULFA) chief Paresh Barua, were among the 11 accused in the chargesheet.
The supplementary chargesheet came on an earlier court order for an extended investigation into the 2004 arms haul when a consignment of 10-truck loads of weapons believed to be destined to northeastern India's ULFA hideouts, were seized in Chittagong.
Officials familiar with the investigation said their probe found Chinese firm NORINCO to have produced the weapons but they could not identify the ship that carried the illegal consignment to Bangladeshi territory.
The extended investigation was carried out under a court order after a Chittagong court judge declined to accept the original investigation report when the case was first brought for trial on February 12, 2008, because of ambiguity.
The court subsequently had to extend its deadline 17 times as the CID repeatedly sought more time for submitting the supplementary chargesheet in their probe which according to them unfolded "revealing facts" behind the haul.
The eight other suspects included retired brigadier general Abdur Rahim, former chief of National Security Intelligence (NSI), and ex-major general Rezzaqul Haider Chowdhury, Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), along with Barua, Babar and Nizami, who is the chief of BNP's ally Jamaat-e-Islami.
The consignment was seized in April 2004 despite suspected efforts of certain "influential quarters" for its safe passage to ULFA hideouts through Chittagong. The case was shelved for years after the apparently "accidental" seizure.
The seized weapons, including over 27,000 grenades, 150 rocket launchers, over 11 lakh ammunitions and 1,100 sub machine guns, were unloaded at a government jetty belonging to state-owned Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Company Ltd (CUFL) to be reloaded in trucks destined for northeastern frontiers.
The subsequent military-backed interim government in 2008 ordered a re-investigation amid allegations that there was a deliberate attempt on the part of the then administration under the BNP-led government to suppress facts.
The reinvestigation led to arrest of several high-profile intelligence officials including former NSI and DGFI chiefs and questioning of a number of senior officers including the then home secretary Omar Faruque.
The investigators also found that the weapons were manufactured at China's Norinco, known outside China for its high-tech defense products, some of which are adaptations of Soviet equipment.
Officials earlier said ULFA leader Barua oversaw the abortive smuggling process in connivance with the influential people in Bangladesh.
FILED ON: JUN 26, 2011
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