Dhaka (AFP) – A Bangladesh court has sentenced the mother of the owner of the notorious Rana Plaza factory complex, which collapsed killing more than 1,100 people, to six years in jail for graft, a prosecutor said Friday.
A special court in Dhaka found Morzina Begum guilty and handed down the jail term late Thursday, anti-graft prosecutor Salauddin Eskander told AFP.
Begum, who is believed to be 60, is the mother of Sohel Rana, the main accused after the April 2013 disaster.
She owns 40 percent of the nine-storey building on the outskirts of Dhaka that collapsed in one of the world’s worst industrial accidents and highlighted links between top global retailers and Bangladesh’s cheap labour garment factories.
“She was sentenced to three years in jail for submitting false and fabricated wealth statement to the anti-corruption commission and another three years for acquiring assets worth 66 million taka ($795,000) from unknown sources,” Eskander said.
The prosecutor said the court also ordered the confiscation of her illegally acquired properties.
In August, the same court jailed her for son for three years for failing to declare his personal wealth to Bangladesh’s anti-graft commission. It was one of a series of cases launched after the disaster.
Rana was arrested just days after the accident at the border with India as he tried to flee Bangladesh.
He became Bangladesh’s public enemy number one in the aftermath of the disaster as survivors recounted being forced to enter the building to work despite complaining about cracks appearing in walls.
Rana and some of his family are among defendants facing murder charges over the deaths. He and 17 others have also been charged with violating building codes when extending the original six-storey structure by three floors. Investigators have blamed the collapse on the illegal construction.
The Rana Plaza disaster prompted reforms in the garment sector, including new safety inspections and higher wages in an industry that employs around four million workers, mostly women.
The disaster highlighted appalling safety problems in Bangladesh’s nearly $30 billion garment industry. It is the world’s second largest exporter after China.
Many international retailers made clothing at the complex’s five factories, including Italy’s Benetton, Spain’s Mango and low-cost British chain Primark.