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Rana Plaza Factory Owner Charged With Murder

Two years have passed since Bangladesh saw its worst-ever industrial disaster, the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory complex that killed more than 1,100 and left more than 2,500 injured. Now the facility’s owner faces murder charges.

Sohel Rana, the fallen building’s owner, has been in prison on charges of negligence and illegal construction in connection with the Rana Plaza tragedy and Bangladesh police said Sunday that Rana will be charged with murder.

“We are going to press murder charges against 41 people including the owners of the building, Sohel Rana and his parents, later today,” lead investigator Bijoy Krishna Kar told Agence France-Presse (AFP). “It was a mass killing. All 41 of those charged have a collective responsibility for the tragedy.”

The other 38 who face murder charges include at least a dozen government officials, owners of several factories in the building, government engineers who approved the illegal extensions and the mayor of Savar, the industrial town where the factory was located as well as a local councilor there for turning a blind eye to breaches of building and factory laws.

If convicted, those charged could be sentenced to death, Kar noted.

Rana and others will also be charged with violating the country’s building code as additional floors were added to the building illegally and it was converted to a factory though initial approvals were for a shopping center.

“That illegal extension violating all construction [regulations] was the seed of this massive disaster,” Kar told AFP.

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Just one day before the April 24, 2013 collapse, an engineer reportedly warned that the Rana Plaza building was uninhabitable after uncovering structural cracks. The eight-story building was evacuated on account of the warning but Rana deemed it safe and managers demanded workers be back at their posts the next day.

“They sent the workers to their deaths with cool heads.” Kar said.

Western brands like Walmart, Joe Fresh, Benetton and Primark had clothing made at Rana Plaza factories.

In April, Rana and his parents, Abdul Khaleque and Marjina Begum, were also accused of illegally amassing personal wealth from the business.

During an investigation, Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) reportedly uncovered proof that Rana’s father had assets worth 10.25 crore taka ($1.32 million), while his mother had 6.68 crore taka ($858,000), the Dhaka Tribune reported, all of which was said to have been acquired illegally.

The Rana Plaza building collapse prompted global outrage at the substandard conditions in the facilities where the world’s clothing is made and multiple initiatives were launched to insure more sound inspections, more pay and greater ramifications for failing to abide by safety laws and standards in the sector that employs roughly 4 million workers.