Three Rab and one air force members, who have been arrested in the capital on charges of abducting a man and demanding ransom for his release, were hired by a woman for the job.
The victim owed the woman money and she approached one of the four through another man to realise it, investigators told The Daily Star yesterday.
The four arrestees have been handed to their respective forces, which are now looking into the matter.
Investigators said the four allegedly picked up Tamzid Hossain, 27, on Thursday and demanded money from his family over phone. The four did this after the woman, Ranu Begum, 45, hailing from Gazipur, approached one of them through a man named Rony.
The next day, Tamzid's family informed police about the abduction and police then made the arrests. Initially, police thought the four were fake members of the Rab and the air force, said police sources.
Police sources said Lance Corporal Dulal Mridha, 32, posted at operations wing of Rab headquarters, planned and led the abduction. Soldier Rokon Mia, 34, of intelligence wing of Rab HQ, Corporal Rony, 26, from the air force, and soldier Md Sagar, 28, of investigation, forensic wing of Rab HQ, aided Dulal in the crime.
Police found involvement of two more Rab members -- soldier Rakib of intelligence wing of Rab HQ, and soldier Mobarak of operation wing of Rab HQ, in the incident, said police sources, adding the two were on the run.
A high official at the Rab HQ said Tamzid borrowed money from many and never paid them back. Ranu was one of them.
Unable to get her money back, Ranu sought help from Rony, a man she knows. Rony contacted Dulal, who planned the abduction and realise money from Tamzid, said the official, wishing not to be named.
On Friday, police arrested the three Rab members and the member of the air force on charges of abducting, torturing, and demanding ransom from Tamzid. Ranu got arrested as well and is now on remand.
Police later handed the three arrested Rab officials to the elite force. Rab will now primarily investigate the allegations, said Rab officials.
The air force member was handed to the force concerned as well.
"You have heard it … we also got to know many things. Our officials are verifying those information. The investigation is at a preliminary stage…We can't say anything conclusive now," Rab Legal and Media Wing Director Commander Khandaker Al Moin told The Daily Star yesterday.
About the investigation against the Rab official, he said, "The force currently employing the accused will investigate the incident on its own. If the investigation finds them guilty, they will be sent to their main forces for further probe. Based on the probe findings, legal action will be taken against them."
Rab members are drawn from police, army and other forces.
Meanwhile, the victim Tamzid gave a statement under section 164 of the CRPC before a Dhaka court yesterday evening. According to court sources, Tamzid gave a description of the abduction before the court. He described how he was held inside a vehicle that roamed around various parts of the city.
On Friday, the victim's sister Rayana Hossain filed a case with Hatirjheel Police Station. However, she didn't mention the names and designations of the accused.
According to the First Information Report (FIR), Tamzid went out of their Mirbagh residence around 9:00am on Thursday for Uttara. Around noon, a man called the victim's sister from an unknown number and introduced himself as a senior Rab official and told her that her brother was in their custody. The caller also threatened to kill her brother if they informed police about the matter.
The caller called again around 1:30pm on Thursday and informed Rayana that her brother was being interrogated at Rab office by senior officials and that he might be killed in "crossfire" if they did not pay Tk 2 crore.
The man on the phone also let the plaintiff hear her brother's screams as he was being tortured. Tamzid then told her that he was blindfolded right after he was picked up. Later, two-three other men called her from the same number and wanted to know whether she had the cash.
Finally, they agreed to let Tamzid go for Tk 12 lakh. They told the victim's sister to go to Jamuna Future Park with Tk 12 lakh, according to the FIR.
Although the Rab has been successful in apprehending several high-profile criminals, the allegation of various abuse of human rights against the elite force is nothing new.
Earlier, the Rab found involvement of 21 of its staff including its former Commanding Officer Lt Col Tareque Sayeed and Maj Arif Hossain in the sensational seven murders of Narayanganj. The top officials were expelled from respective positions in the elite force and armed forces concerned.
Limon Hossain, a college student at Jamaddarhat at Rajapur Upazila in Jhalakati, was shot at by Rab personnel near his house on March 23, 2011, triggering local and international outcry. His left leg had to be amputated as a result. The battalion filed two cases that day with the Rajapur police implicating Limon in an arms case and accusing him of obstructing police duties. In the face of protests at home and abroad, the government in July 2013 withdrew the two cases.
In his statement at the court, Tamzid Hossain said he met Ranu Begum last year. They later met three times and discussed starting a business of garment products. Around a week before the incident, he told Ranu that he would buy garment products worth Tk 25 lakh. On Wednesday, Ranu called him and asked him to be in front of Rajlaxmi Market in Uttara on Thursday morning.
Tamzid said Ranu called him when he went in front of the market around 10:00am and she went there with a man named Rakib. A little later, another man named Iqbal went there. Rakib then said they should sit and talk at a nearby hotel called the New VIP.
Tamzid said Ranu then asked him if he would buy the goods that very day. Tamjid replied, "Yes, you will get the money as soon as you deliver the goods." Right after that, six or seven men in Rab uniform appeared with handcuffs and walkie-talkies. They wanted to know who Rakib was. As Rakib raised his hand, the Rab men grabbed Tamzid and Iqbal by the collar and asked Ranu and Rakib to come with them.
"We were handcuffed and blindfolded. They slapped us and threatened to kill me if I said anything. They took us into a microbus which drove for one and a half hours. A Rab officer then told Ranu to get down. After five-six minutes, they got on the vehicle again. Someone told me that they will file an arms and narcotics case against me. He demanded money from my father. I asked how much. He said Tk 2 crore.
"They called my father's number from my phone. My father asked whether I was okay. I said I was okay, but I got in trouble. They demanded Tk 2 crore. Then a man took the phone away and beat me up. I came to know that they had spoken to my sister. They settled for Tk 12 lakh and asked my sister to go to Jamuna Future Park. He threatened that he would put me in a crossfire if the money didn't appear.
"Just before the evening, two of them named Rokon and Rony got out of the vehicle. After a while, two more people got down. Then Ranu's phone rang and she gave the phone to me. A man named Dulal said my sister had got two of their men detained. If they didn't release the two in five minutes, they would kill me and throw the body in the Turag river.
"Then I told my sister about it… When she asked where I was, I said -- 300 feet [road]. Then they took away the phone and drove to Uttara. Once there, all of them got down, except the driver, Ranu, Iqbal and me. I opened my eyes. A boy came and picked up the Rab equipment and left. Then a man named Mubarak came and said that there was no point in keeping these two alive. After that, I was taken to Hatirjheel where police rescued me."
Police sources said the microbus driver was in their custody and he may testify in the case.
Rights activist Nur Khan Liton told The Daily Star that this was not the first such incident. Among the sensational cases, he said there were the seven-murder case in Narayanganj in 2014 and embezzlement of over Tk 2 crore at a Chattogram shrine in 2011.
"We don't know about the incidents that weren't reported. After every such incident, the accused are sent to the forces they belong in for further probe. But these are criminal offences. There should be transparency and accountability," he said.