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Bangladesh Court Orders Collapsed Building Owner’s Assets Seized; Loblaw To Compensate Victims
April 30, 2013
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The owner of that collapsed building in Bangladesh was in court today, with the owners of five garment factories that operated inside.

The High Court ordered the government to immediately take control of the building owner's property.

It also told the central bank to freeze the assets of the five factory owners, and use the money to pay the salaries and benefits of the workers. For those who died, the court implied the money is to go to their relatives.

Meantime, thousands of protesters gathered at the disaster site to demand the death penalty for the building owner, Mohammed Sohel Rana.

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He was allowed to build a five-storey building but added three more floors illegally. Police are questioning him on charges including negligence and illegal construction - crimes which carry a maximum of seven years in prison.

Canada's Loblaw Inc. has said it will compensate the families of victims, saying it will ensure that they "receive benefits now and in the future."

Loblaw, which had clothes for its Joe Fresh line made in the building, said it's working out details but plans to provide help "in the best and most meaningful way possible."

It is the only Canadian company that has acknowledged having clothes made in the building. It said it's working with other retailers to provide aid and resources to the neighbourhood of Savar, where the disaster happened.

Loblaw is also sending senior officials to Bangladesh to speak with local authorities about what caused the collapse.

"We are committed to finding an approach that ensures safe working conditions, drives lasting change in the industry and [helps prevent] other tragedies," the company said.

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British retailer Primark has also said it was using a factory in the building. It said it's providing emergency food aid and will compensate victims who worked for its supplier.

"Primark notes the fact that its supplier shared the building with those of other retailers. We are fully aware of our responsibility. We urge these other retailers to come forward and offer assistance," it said.

Wal-Mart said none of its clothing was to be made in the building, but it is investigating whether there was any unauthorized production.

Garment workers in the building are said to have been paid just $38 a month.

Queen's University marketing professor Tandy Thomas said western retailers have a responsibility to ensure working conditions are up to a certain standard.

"These are the companies that really have the power to say 'You're not gonna get our business unless you do things correctly,'" Thomas said. "And the evidence has shown that that kind of pressure tends to bring about a faster response than waiting for local governments to institute change."

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As of this writing, 386 people are confirmed dead from the collapse. About 2,500 other have been rescued.

Today, families waited for news about missing relatives, holding their photos and ID cards as emergency workers cleared away debris to get to the bottom floor - where they expect to find many more bodies.

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