Bangladesh collapsed building owner to be charged in construction case

Reuters, Tuesday 15 Jul 2014

Bangladesh's anti-graft agency will file charges against the owner of a building that collapsed last year killing more than 1,130 people, most of them garment workers, in a construction violation case, an agency spokesman said on Tuesday.

The April 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza, built on swampy ground outside Dhaka, ranks amongst the world's worst industrial accidents and sparked a global outcry for improved safety in the world's second-largest exporter of ready-made garments.

Last month, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed a case with police accusing 17 people of breaching regulations over the construction of the building.

But the commission did not list building owner Mohammad Sohel Rana as his name did not appear in documents covering ownership of the land and design approval, which instead listed his parents.

"Rana's name will be included in the charge sheet as his involvement has been found in a further investigation," commission spokesman Pranab Kumar Bhattachajee told Reuters.

Rana was arrested after a four-day hunt shortly after the building collapsed, apparently trying to flee across the border to India. He is being detained.

Low labour costs and, critics say, shortcuts on safety, make Bangladesh the cheapest place to make large quantities of clothing.

Late last year, the government raised the minimum wage for garment workers by 77 percent to 5,300 taka ($68) and amended the labour law to boost workers' rights, including the freedom to form trade unions. It is also cooperating with garment factory inspections by safety experts hired by retailer brands.

But erratic decision-making poses a new set of problems for the industry, whose safety record has been under the microscope since the collapse of the Rana Plaza. 

Bangladesh's exports, however, in the year to June hit a record $30 billion, up 11 percent from a year ago on the back of stronger garment sales.

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