Four Bangladeshi NGOs have channelled Tk 73 crore, received in foreign aids, to militant outfits and Jamaat-e-Islami over the last one year, law enforcement agencies have claimed following some recent arrests.
On November 8, the counter terrorism unit arrested eight people on charges of instigating Rohingya refugees in guise of workers of an NGO, Small Kindness Bangladesh (SKB). All of them were members of Ansar al-Islam, a banned militant outfit formerly known as Ansarullah Bangla Team, said the unit officials.
Separately, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrested eight employees of three other NGOs -- Bangladesh Chashi Kalyan Samity, Nobo Krishi Private Ltd, and Nobodhara Kalyan Foundation -- on October 28 for “funding radical groups.”
The arrestees gave confessional statements to court that they used the funds of the NGOs for the welfare of Jamaat and extremist groups, sources in the CID and Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit told this paper on November 25.
The investigators are now on the lookout for 30 staffers of SKB and 36 staffers of the rest three, they said.
Counter-terrorism officials said the SKB was providing financial support to the families of Jamaat-Shibir activists and leaders who died during the countrywide shutdowns and blockades in 2013 and 2014.
It had funds especially allocated for Jamaat-Shibir activists and leaders behind bars, they said, adding that the money was used to foot the legal expenses to secure their bail.
The SKB, which has close ties with an NGO in a neighbouring country, used to collect funds from international organisations showing fake projects, said a CTTC official, wishing not to be named.
He said the SKB obtained Tk 10 crore over the last one year and deposited the money in different bank accounts. After receiving the information, the investigators had asked the Bangladesh Bank to freeze SKB's financial transactions, added the officer.
Upon analysing documents seized from SKB's office at Dhaka's Mirpur DOHS and grilling the arrestees, the CTTC unit gleaned 30 names including Wakatul Jannat and ATM Abdul Gafur Nasir, two of the founders of the SKB.
Gafur is also former personal assistant of convicted war criminal Mir Kashem Ali. Jannat is a former Shibir leader, now hiding in the Philippines, CTTC sources said.
Abdul Mannan, deputy commissioner of CTTC unit, said the arrestees in their confessions described how they financed Jamaat-Shibir and extremists.
Rest of the three NGOs, run by 18 directors, helped Jamaat and other militant outfits carry out anti-government and anti-state activities, according to the CID.
On February 14, the CTTC unit arrested two suspected militants, Ismail Hossain and Hasanul Banna, from Mirpur. Both of them were followers of Ansarullah Bangla Team chief Jashimuddin Rahmani, according to case details.
The CID official investigating the case said their arrests led them to the three NGOs -- Bangladesh Chashi Kalyan Samity, Nobo Krishi Private Ltd, and Nobodhara Kalyan Foundation.
These NGOs got Tk 62.57 crore from Middle East and Turkey between 2007 and 2018. Besides the foreign aids, they collected zakat (a form of alms-giving treated in Islam as a religious obligation or tax) from all across the country through 26 staffers who they termed as “26 brothers”.
The CID had obtained the names of the “brothers” and raids were on to net them, the officer said requesting anonymity.
The “26 brothers” collected Tk 37 lakh in zakat over the last two years and were now on the run, he added.
According to the CID, eight of the 18 people who ran the NGOs were put behind bars while rest were absconding.
Quoting those in jail, Molla Nazrul Islam, special superintendent of CID, said one Ismail Hossain, who used to live in Turkey and later went into hiding after coming to Bangladesh, helped the NGOs get funds. He was involved with a militant outfit which the CID is yet to specify.
This correspondent visited the offices of the NGOs earlier this month but found them locked with no-one available for comments.
Dr Shafiqur Rahman, secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami, has brushed off the claims made by the CID and the CTTC unit of police.
“The allegations have been cooked-up, they are politically motivated. Jamaat never took any money from NGOs. It runs its activities with donations from people.
“Jamaat believes in democracy and orderly movements. It is far away from militancy,” said the Jamaat leader.