Body arrives in Bangladesh on Monday
Khaleda Zia’s youngest son Arafat Rahman Coco, carrying a six-year jail sentence for laundering money abroad, has died of heart failure in Malaysia, the BNP has confirmed, report agencies. The BNP chairperson’s Press Secretary Maruf Kamal Khan said that 45-year old Coco was being taken to a hospital on Saturday afternoon Bangladesh time but he collapsed on the way. His body will arrive here on Monday, BNP sources said.
Khaleda is staying at her Gulshan office after calling a crippling anti-government agitation including a Bangladesh-wide blockade and a series of shutdowns while both her sons stayed abroad facing a raft of charges.
Several teachers and students of a madrasa near the Gulshan kitchen market were seen entering the office after the news of Coco’s passing away reached there. BNP leaders said they had been called for Quran-khwani.
Khaleda family relatives and some party leaders also went in. A decision on Coco’s burial was yet to be made, Khan said. Press wing official Shamsuddin Didar told reporters that Coco’s funeral would be held at Kuala Lumpur’s Masjid Negara on Sunday after Zuhr prayers. Coco was arrested along with his mother on Sept 3, 2007 at their cantonment home during the emergency rule. He went to Thailand for treatment on July 19 next year after the military-run caretaker government released him on parole.
He moved from Bangkok to Malaysia, Thailand’s ambassador to Bangladesh had told journalists in 2011.
Coco stayed at a rented house in Kuala Lumpur with his wife and two daughters.
On June 23 that year, he was sentenced to six years in prison and fined Tk 190 million for laundering money to Singapore between 2004 and 2006, when his mother was the prime minister.
The Awami League-led coalition that came to power in 2009 decided against extending his parole further.
Coco defied court summons leading to his trial and conviction as a fugitive from justice – which meant he could not appeal against his sentence. But the BNP says the case aimed to settle political scores.
BNP’s Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman was also arrested in 2007 and slapped with a slew of corruption charges.
Later accused of trying to kill Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, he was also released by the 2007-8 caretaker regime on parole and has been staying in the UK since 2008 with his family.
Never the one for political showmanship, the youngest son of Bangladesh’s first military ruler Gen Ziaur Rahman and three-time prime minister Khaleda chose to play the second fiddle to his elder brother and their presumed political heir.
But in 2001, when his mother led an amalgamation of Jamaat-e-Islami and other parties to power, Coco, balding and sporting a moustache, was surprisingly installed as an adviser to Bangladesh Cricket Board, the country’s richest and most powerful sporting body.
Allegations have it that Coco and his cohorts ‘occupied’ BCB shunting out an elected committee by forming an advisory panel through legal loopholes.
He took the chair of the cricket board’s Development Committee removing then BCB chief Saber Hossain Chowdhury from his post.