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reverse_swing
May 26, 2004, 01:04 PM
A senior Transparency International (TI) official has criticised a 180 year sentence received by the former head of the state-run telephone company.
The corruption monitoring group said that there were questions to be asked about the fairness of the trial.

http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/39198000/jpg/_39198680_man_203body.jpg
Customers have often been frustrated by problems with the state-run phone system

TI said that the conviction raised doubts because no-one else was punished with Maksud Ali Khan.

The organisation said it was unlikely that he was the sole culprit in a case where corruption was so widespread.

'Others involved'

"This sentence may serve as a deterrent to others contemplating corruption in the public sector, but the trial itself was not fair," said TI Trustee Muzzafar Ahmed in an interview with the BBC's Bengali service.

He said that the sheer scale of the financial irregularities of which Mr Khan was found guilty meant that other people must have been involved.

A former chief executive of the state-run telephone company, he was sentenced to 180 years rigorous imprisonment in six corruption cases.

A Divisional Court in the capital Dhaka found Maksud Ali Khan guilty in his absence. The authorities say that he is in hiding.

He was also fined $2m in addition to the jail sentence and was warned that he faces another 30 years imprisonment if he fails to pay the fine.

The court was told that Mr Khan, who was the chairman of the Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board between 1988 and 1989, misused his power for personal enrichment.

Three other men accused with him in six different cases were found not guilty.

The cases were filed by the Bureau of Anti-Corruption in 1991 after the then military ruler, General Hussain Muhammad Ershad, was ousted from power. Mr Khan has been absconding since then.

Correspondents say that the state run telecom company has not improved much in the intervening years.

Last year a former bank employee was finally connected with a landline telephone at his home after waiting 27 years for a connection.

Mohammed Ismail, 60, applied to the state-run Bangladesh telephone company to install the line in May 1976 and said that the delay was because he refused to pay bribes.

Bangladesh has been ranked as the world's most corrupt country by Tl for a third consecutive year.

It and many of Bangladesh's international aid donors have long been asking the government to set up an anti-corruption body that has real powers.

The authorities have responded by approving a law to establish an independent anti-corruption commission which ministers say will start operating before the end of the year.

-BBC

[Edited on 26-5-2004 by reverse_swing]