Born and brought up in Chhoba Patti in Dhaka's Gendaria, Rahima Begum used to sell small packets of ganja and heroin inside the squalid slum.
Two decades down the line, she now owns at least 10 buildings in different parts of the capital. She also moves around in her own luxurious cars and has big, fat bank accounts.
Rahima earned a fortune by expanding her illegal drug trade over the years.
Dubbed the “drug queen” by police, Rahima was named by the Department of Narcotics Control on its list of most-wanted criminals thought to be on the run. She is considered one of the top five drug dealers in the city, said DNC officials.
Her husband Hazrat Ali is also a narcotics trader, according to a list of prepared by Dhaka Metropolitan Police in 2017.
“Rahima is wanted in at least 14 cases, including one for murder,” DNC Inspector Helal Uddin told The Daily Star yesterday.
Rahima met Hazrat in 2000 and since then, they had jointly been running their drug trade, he said.
Rahima, now 47, had at least 35 close accomplices and the racket earned crores of taka every month, DNC officials said.
“We have been able to arrest several of the group members but Rahima somehow manages to dodge law enforcers,” Helal said.
Interrogating the arrestees, DNC officials came to know about the buildings and cars owned by Rahima. Three of the buildings are in Gendaria and Sanirakhra areas.
“We could not confiscate the properties as she bought them in the name of her relatives. However, we have prepared a report and sent it to the Anti-Corruption Commission so that it investigates [the matter] and takes action against her,” said the inspector.
While visiting Gendaria this week, this correspondent found that Rahima was indeed a notorious drug dealer in the area. However, no one agreed to speak against her.
The reason for the fear was probably because she reportedly broke the hands and legs of people, and even killed those who tried to go against her, according to DNC officials.
Take the example of Aslam Shikder, 55.
Aslam was a close accomplice of Rahima but he reportedly tried to betray her and have her arrested. Somehow, Rahima learnt about it in advance and she had him “killed”.
On November 8 2014, police recovered Aslam's bullet-riddled body from his home in Dania area.
The Detective Branch (DB) of police unraveled the mystery after the arrest of 11, including Hazrat, said police and DNC officials.
Five of the arrestees gave confessional statements in court and all of them mentioned that they killed Aslam on Rahima's instruction. DB police also submitted a charge sheet with a Dhaka court against Rahima and 10 others in the case in January last year.
The then investigation supervising officer of the case, Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) of DB police Mainul Islam, said Rahima was a notorious drug trader. “Aslam was killed as planned by her.”
In another case, Rahima broke the legs and hands of a youth named Jahir for giving information about one of her yaba consignments to police, said DNC officials.
DNC Inspector Helal said they were conducting drives in different points of the capital to arrest Rahima.
“Rahima uses at least 60 cell numbers and does not use the same number for [more than] two months. For this reason, it is difficult to arrest her but we are trying,” he added.
Meanwhile, despite the ongoing anti-narcotics crackdown, Rahima's men were selling drugs in “some spots” in Jatrabari, Dania and Gendaria areas, alleged locals.
Although the peddlers hid during the daytime, they came out to sell the drugs after sunset, they added.
This correspondent saw that happening in the Gendaria slum around 1:30am on Wednesday.