Bangladesh charges 41 people including factory complex owner with murder over building collapse

Bangladeshi people lay floral wreaths in memory of the victims of the Rana Plaza building collapse as they mark the second anniversary of the disaster in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka on April 24, 2015. Bangladeshi police on Monday, June 1, charge
Bangladeshi people lay floral wreaths in memory of the victims of the Rana Plaza building collapse as they mark the second anniversary of the disaster in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka on April 24, 2015. Bangladeshi police on Monday, June 1, charged the owner of the Rana Plaza factory complex with murder after it collapsed in 2013, killing more than 1,100 people. -- PHOTO: AFP

DHAKA (AFP) -  Bangladeshi police on Monday charged 41 people, including the owner of the Rana Plaza factory complex, with murder over the building’s collapse in 2013 that killed more than 1,100 people.

The Chief Judicial Magistrate’s Court in Dhaka formally accepted a charge sheet from police against Sohel Rana, 35, and the others in connection with the collapse, the country’s worst ever industrial disaster.  

“We’ve charged 41 people including the owner of the building, Sohel Rana, with murder over the collapse of Rana Plaza in April 2013,” lead investigator Bijoy Krishna Kar told AFP, addind that all face the death penalty if convicted.

Among the others charged are seven owners of the individual factories housed in the complex and 12 government officials whose responsibilities included safety and inspections of the building.

“It is the biggest industrial disaster in Bangladesh’s history. And all 41 of them have collective responsibility for this mass killing of more than 1,100 innocent people,” Kar said.  

Rana became Bangladesh’s public enemy number one after survivors recounted how thousands of them were forced to enter the compound at the start of the working day despite complaints about cracks appearing in the walls.

Rana was arrested on the western border with India as he tried to flee the country, in the days after the April 24 disaster.

Rana and 17 others have also been charged with violating the building code, for extending the six-storey structure – which was initially approved as a shopping centre – into a nine-storey factory complex.

“That illegal extension violating all construction (regulations) was the seed of this massive disaster,” Kar said on Sunday.  

The disaster highlighted appalling safety problems in Bangladesh’s US$25 billion (S$34 billion) garment industry, the world’s second largest after China’s.   A host of Western retailers had clothing made at Rana Plaza, including Italy’s Benetton, Spain’s Mango and the British low-cost chain Primark.

The disaster prompted sweeping reforms including new safety inspections and higher wages in the industry, which employs around four million workers.