Rana Plaza owner Sohel Rana, centre, and two of his alleged aides paraded before journalists at Rab headquarters in the capital yesterday after his arrest at Benapole trying to cross the border. Photo: Palash Khan
Sohel Rana, owner of the Savar building that collapsed on Wednesday, leaving more than 381 dead and scores injured, was arrested in Benapole, Jessore, yesterday afternoon.
Rana went to Benapole to cross the border without a passport and was hiding at a human trafficker's house in Ball Field area, about 0.5 kilometres from the Indian border, the Rapid Action Battalion said.
As soon as the news of the arrest was announced by Minister of State Jahangir Kabir Nanak, at the collapse site in the afternoon, locals burst into cheers and chanted slogans, “Hang Rana, Hang Rana!”
People in small groups brought out jubilant processions.
After Rana was brought to Dhaka in a helicopter around 5:00pm, Rab held a press briefing at its headquarters.
“He had been hiding in different places since Wednesday. We learnt through secret sources that he was hiding in Benapole,” Rab's Director General Mokhlesur Rahman told the media.
The elite crime buster found two bottles of Phensedyl, lungis, caps, cigarettes, medicines and oral saline in a briefcase with Rana.
Asked if powerful people had sheltered Rana, the Rab chief said if someone influential had given him shelter, he would have stayed in one place instead of moving from one district to another.
Rana was in the building when it collapsed on Wednesday morning. He suffered injuries and received treatment at Insaf Hospital in Ashulia for two hours, Rab officials said.
From the hospital, he went to Mohammadpur and stayed with a friend, Mohammad Shamim. He spent the next day in Manikganj with one Afzal Sharif.
On Friday, when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered his immediate arrest, Rana went to Faridpur and the following day to Jhikorgachha in Jessore with the help of one Anil. Shah Alam Mithu, the trafficker, received him in Jessore.
Finally, around 1:30pm yesterday, the law enforcers arrested Rana along with Mithu. Anil was detained on Saturday night.
On Wednesday, hours after the collapse of the nine-storey building, police and Rajuk filed two separate cases against Rana.
Legal expert advocate Shafiuddin Khan said the investigation officer could bring charges of murder against the owners of the building and the factories that Rana Plaza housed.
Although cracks developed on some pillars and a few floors of the building following a jolt on April 23, and the industrial police gave explicit instructions that the building be shut down, Rana decided to keep it open anyway, giving false assurances to workers and shopkeepers about its safety.
He even brought a so-called engineer, Razzak, to vouch for the safety of his building.
Ignoring workers' misgivings and fears, Rana and the factory owners forced them to join their workplaces.
On Tuesday night, in an interview with Ekushey TV, Rana confidently claimed that the building would be safe for another hundred years.
Denying that Razzak was a “fake engineer”, he alleged that the site engineer had hit a crack with a bamboo stick and assured him that it was just broken plaster on the wall.
In addition, the unstable structure of Rana Plaza was constructed through a defiance of multiple laws of the country. Sohel Rana also forcibly occupied at least occupied 60 percent of the land from a local Hindu Rabindranath Sarkar.
Notorious in Savar as an Awami League muscleman and cadre, he is suspected of three murders. Locals allege he is the henchman of AL lawmaker Murad Jong.
Rana pushed the workers into death by forcing them into his risky building which eventually collapsed, observed Additional Home Secretary Mainuddin Khandaker yesterday.
Mainuddin is the head of the five-member committee to investigate the incident.
"I think he [Rana] enjoyed one sort of impunity. Consequently he showed the audacity which was behind the killings. It was not an accident," he said told reporters after visiting the spot in Savar.
In another development, the owner of another garment factory of the collapsed Rana Plaza was arrested last night in the capital's Ramna area.
Anisur Rahman, chairman of Ether Tex Ltd, was arrested by detectives around 9:45pm, said Masudur Rahman, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
Earlier, police arrested three factory owners and two engineers of Savar municipality.
They are Bazlus Samad Adnan, 45, chairman of New Wave Buttons; its Managing Director Mahmudur Rahman Tapash, 46; Aminul Islam, 50, owner and chairman of Phantom Apparels Ltd and Phantom Tack Ltd; Executive Engineer of Savar Municipality Emtemam Hossain, 51, and its Assistant Engineer Alam Miah, 45.