The Bangladesh police arrested the mayor of the town where the Rana Plaza collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people. The disaster is one of the world’s worst industrial accidents on record, and the worst in the history of the garment industry.
Mohammed Refayet Ullah, Mayor of Savar, was incarcerated late Wednesday evening. Since the Rana Plaza collapse, he had been placed on suspension pending an investigation. Local Police Chief Mostofa Kamal said, “CID [Criminal Investigation Department] officers who are probing the case arrested him from Dhaka.” He has been charged with knowingly turning a blind eye to multiple building code violations, and for allowing the nine-story building to undergo unauthorized construction at the time of the collapse.
According to police officials, Ullah’s office allowed a construction project that aimed to add three more floors to the building, an undertaking initiated without the proper permits. Also, investigators allege Ullah’s office neglected to take action after clear signs of an overburdened structure, including massive cracks in the building’s facade, became apparent.
A government team that inspected the building following its collapse discovered that substandard materials were used in its construction. Massive generators had been placed on the upper floors so garment factories could continue to operate even during power outages, frequent occurrences in Bangladesh. The placement of these generators was in violation of the nation’s construction codes.
More than a dozen people, including the owner of Rana Plaza and four owners of factories housed within it, have been arrested. Ullah is the highest ranking official to be arrested thus far.
Police have hinted at future arrests, including those involved in the construction itself for culpable homicide.
The April 24 catastrophe has generated intense international scrutiny of Bangladesh’s dilapidated factories and squalid working conditions. In response to these revelations, the US has suspended the impoverished nation’s GSP (General Systems of Preferences) trade status.