12:02 AM, May 27, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

Dirty economy in the city of crime

Dirty economy in the city of crime

Emran Hossain and Shaheen Mollah

Auto-rickshaw driver Abul Hossain, 52, could not stand the temptation. He spent Tk 500 for the infamous dance show at Shimrail truck stand of Siddhirganj.
What Abul describes about the show, which took place every night, resembles striptease. “You could even buy performer's privacy for Tk 5,000.”
It was inside a pandal where people, while enjoying dances, gamble their money away. Outside, there were booths for selling drugs such as Phensedyl and Yaba. Even a makeshift police camp was there taking care of “law and order”.    
Nur Hossain, an aide to Awami League lawmaker Shamim Osman and prime accused in the seven-murder case, had been running this illicit business over the last two years. His partners included five other accused in the case.
On April 30, angry mobs burned down the place after six out of seven abductees, including panel mayor Nazrul Islam, were found dead, floating in the river Shitalakkhya. Another body was found the following day.
Hossain went into hiding. The truck stand is in Narayanganj-4, the parliamentary constituency of Shamim Osman. Talking to The Daily Star on May 18, the lawmaker admitted the spot was the epicentre of the city's underground activities.
The truck stand, he said, was also a route of drug smuggling.
“I have been an MP for only three months. What could have been done in such a short time?”
The place involved a massive underground business. A rough estimate suggests the activities generated Tk 2 crore a day though Shamim said it was much bigger.
Police, Rab, administrative officers, several ministers, some journalists and more than one adviser to the prime minister received a regular share of the black money, said a cop transferred following the seven-murder.
To dig deeper, The Daily Star has also talked to traders, drug peddlers and sources close to Hossain and his aides.
Buses and trucks plying on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway had to pay for crossing the Shimrail truck stand. Each bus has to pay Tk 100, while a truck is charged Tk 150. According to highway police, about 5,000 buses and 9,000 trucks pass through the stand daily.
Shamim on many occasions admitted his ties with Hossain. But talking about extortion in the transport sector, he blamed it all on this close aide.
He said each truck parked at the stand had to pay Hossain Tk 2,000 against the government rate of Tk 50. Goods-laden trucks were charged Tk 5,000 per night.
Chengis, a dreaded criminal who leads the transport extortion on the Dhaka-Narayanganj route too is Shamim's man.
The collection on the road was estimated at about Tk 1,80,00,00 a day, said a written complaint of 43 bus owners.
A Narayanganj citizen platform, Jatri Odhikar Songrokkhon Forum, alleged last year that the Osman family had accumulated Tk 250 crore only from the transport sector in the last five years.
Hossain's brother Joj Miah and nephew Shahjalal Badal were in charge of extorting money from over 100 businessmen using the banks of the Shitalakkhya for sand and stone trade.
They collected an estimated Tk 27,00,000 daily from this sector, given that businessmen are charged 25 paisa per cubic feet of sand or stone, while the vessel owner must pay Tk 600 each time they deliver the supply.
Joj and Badal have been absconding since the murders.
Hossain moved in the security of two dozen armed guards, a sign of his dominance of the underworld. His six-bigha mansion was lit by six floodlights at night, with an orchard illuminated as well.  
One of his neighbours remembers parties thrown often at Hossain's residence were attended by people from the administration.
“Police, deployed in the district along Dhaka-Chittagong highway, throughout the months-long opposition protest before the last national election, were routinely fed by Nur Hossain.”      
Five other accused in the case -- Hasmat Ali Hasu, Haji Yasin Miah, Aminul Islam Raju, Anwar and Iqbal -- were Hossain's partners in the underworld and owned huge land property, numerous multi-storey buildings.
Hasu was in charge of extortion from the Roads and Highways Department.
Yasin is infamous for racketeering. Both Hossain and Yasin were vice-president and general secretary of Siddhirganj AL. The unit recently recommended expelling the two.
Yasin and Badal were in charge of raising funds on the occasion of the Bangla New Year. Shamim attended the programme as chief guest on April 14 this year.
Aminul, Siddhirganj Swechchhasebak League's general secretary, made money mainly from occupying land owned by the government and individuals. Anwar is known as a cold-blooded killer. Iqbal was also involved in land business.
Apart from all this, there were occasional extortions.
Abul Hossain, introduced at the beginning of this story, became a victim of such extortion this year. He had to pay Tk 10,000 after his auto-rickshaw was seized by Hossain's men. Getting his vehicle back, he had found one of the batteries missing and it cost him another Tk 4,500.
As many as 3,500 auto-rickshaws were piled up at the residences of Hossain, Yasin and Badal ahead of Pahela Baishakh, the first day of the Bangla calendar.
The owners were asked to pay the same amount Abul Hossain had paid. About 70 people did not get back their vehicles at all.
“I was embarrassed after I realised I could not even touch them, let alone contain their activities sheltered by Shamim,” a former deputy inspector general of Dhaka division told The Daily Star.


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