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Bangladesh charges 18 over garment factory collapse


(Reuters) — Bangladesh’s anti-corruption agency filed charges on Wednesday against 18 people accused of breaching regulations over the construction of a building that collapsed last year killing more than 1,130 people.

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. Most of the victims were garment workers.

The accused include the owner of the building, Mohammad Sohel Rana, and his parents, the local mayor, engineers and three owners of garment factories that used the building.

The Anti-Corruption Commission previously had not listed Mr. Rana as his name did not appear in documents covering ownership of the land and design approval, which instead listed his parents.

“The charge sheet has been filed against 18 people, including Mr. Rana after further investigation found his involvement,” commission spokesman Pranab Kumar Bhattachajee told Reuters.

Of the accused, Mr. Bhattachajee said: “Investigation found that they grossly breached the building code.”

Municipal officials gave permission for extra floors in the building, but they had no such authority, he added.

Rana is in detention since he was arrested after a four-day hunt shortly after the building collapsed, apparently trying to flee across the border to India.

Low labor costs and, critics say, shortcuts on safety, make Bangladesh, the second-largest exporter of ready-made garments, the cheapest place to make large quantities of clothing.

Last year, the government raised the minimum wage for garment workers by 77% to about $68 and amended the labor law to boost workers’ rights.

But erratic decision-making over inspection of factories poses a new set of problems for the $24 billion industry, which accounts for 80% of exports. Turmoil in the sector has put at risk the livelihoods of nearly 4 million garment workers, mostly women.