A fraudster in myriad guises | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 10, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:28 AM, July 10, 2020

A fraudster in myriad guises

This is how a home ministry letter described Shahed 4 years ago, but he kept working the system to make it big

"He is a man of dangerous fraudulent nature."

This is how a home ministry letter back in 2016 described Mohammad Shahed, a person with many "identities".

The letter, sent to the inspector general of police on September 29, read, "Shahed committed various misdeeds at different times by introducing himself as major/lieutenant colonel, former cadet college student and ADC of the then prime minister during 1996-2001."

The letter also asked the IGP to take action against him, but he somehow managed to get away with it.

Recently, Shahed has once again hit the headlines after it was found that the capital's Regent Hospital, owned by him, allegedly issued several thousand fake Covid-19 test reports.  

Once a close aide to BNP leaders, Shahed made his way in Awami League politics. But that's just a little part of his "identity". He is the editor and publisher of a daily, according to his accreditation card. Besides, he frequently claimed to be a political analyst, a regular talk-show panelist, a retired army officer and a high official of the Prime Minister's Office.

He also has got a rich collection of photos where he is seen with the president, different past and incumbent ministers, top AL and BNP leaders, top journalists, and high officials of the government and law enforcement agencies. 

Shahed also possesses several identity cards, almost all of which are fake, according to law enforcers.

Perhaps, his biggest "identity" is that he is the chairman of Regent Hospital, which has recently been sealed off on charges of issuing fake Covid-19 test certificates and illegally collecting money from coronavirus patients.

According to police sources, Shahed is involved in various crimes and the illegal practice at the private hospital was just the tip of the iceberg.

He is facing around 32 cases, including for murder, money laundering and embezzlement of public money. He has already served in jail for embezzling money. Most of the cases were filed under Section 420 of the Penal Code.

The Daily Star repeatedly tried to contact Shahed for comments, but his mobile phone was found switched off.

According to Rab sources, initial investigation revealed that he has siphoned off a large amount of money abroad.

The sources said Rab personnel raided the hospital on Monday based on intelligence report that the facility was providing fake Covid-19 certificates in exchange for money.

Law enforcers had received similar allegations against him, but no action was taken apparently due to his close links with some politicians in power and top government officials, said the sources.

Recently, Lt Gen (retd) Chowdhury Hasan Sarwardy, Bir Bikrom, gave some interesting information about Shahed in a Facebook post.

According to the post, Shahed introduces himself as Major Iftekar Ahmed Chowdhury, Colonel Iftekar Ahmed Chowdhury and sometimes as Major Shahed Karim, but his national identity card mentions his name as Shahed Karim.

But now he is using another NID card with the name of Md Shahed. Sarwardy mentioned the number of the card as 269261714575.

Contacted, Sarwardy, who served as GOC of 9th Infantry Division, director general of SSF and Ansar and VDP and director of Army Intelligence, told The Daily Star that he provided the information knowingly and confirmed its veracity.

He, however, advised this newspaper to conduct its own investigation.

The Daily Star has obtained a copy of the temporary accreditation card of Shahed issued by the Press Information Department. His card number is 6845 and according to it, Shahed is the Publisher and Editor of The Daily Natun Kagoj and his national identity card number is 8650406187.

One of Sarwardy's posts also referred to a report published in The Daily Janakantha on December 11, 2014.

Going through the issue, this correspondent found a report titled "Uncertainty looms over 100 SSC examinees for unapproved Regent School & College."

At a briefing on Wednesday, Rab's Intelligence Chief Lt Col Sarwar-Bin-Quasem also said Shahed was a fraud and master of bluffs.

"We came to know that he had a multi-level marketing business where he embezzled a lot of money from people. Later, he landed in jail. After serving two years in jail, he came out in 2011. He didn't stop. He continued with his fraudulence," he added.

Following Rab's drive, other information started surfacing.

At Regent's head office in Uttara, a room was allocated for Shahed with many modern facilities, including an automated door-lock that could only be opened with a password.

His personal SUV featured a flag stand, VIP horn and he had multiple gunmen at all times for his security. They used walkie-talkies.

According to Rab sources, he had no permission to use those.

HOW SHAHED 'MANAGED' HEALTH MINISTRY

The directorate of health signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Regent Hospital to turn it into a dedicated Covid-19 hospital on March 21, although the licence of the facility has not been renewed since 2014.

According to the MoU, the government would bear all the treatment costs of Covid-19 patients.

But Regent Hospital charged patients different fees and also submitted a Tk 1.98 crore bill to the government.

Sources said the health minister and government high-ups were present during the MoU signing ceremony. But now the ministry is asking the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) to explain as to why the contract was signed despite the hospital's licence had expired in 2014.

According to ministry sources, papers of Regent Hospitals were not examined before signing of the MoU, following recommendations from government high-ups.

Besides, Shahed had very good relations with the director general of the DGHS and top leaders of Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad (Swachip), a pro-AL organisation for doctors, said the sources.

Shahed's party position as a member of the AL's international affairs sub-committee helped him "manage" the health ministry to pick his hospital as a dedicated Covid-19 treatment facility, according to multiple sources.

Asked why the health directorate signed an MoU with a hospital that has no proper documents, Aminul Hasan, director of hospitals and clinics at the DGHS, said, "We did it after ministry high-ups asked me to allow Regent Hospital. We just executed the order."

Prof Abul Kalam Azad, director general of the DGHS, declined to comment. "I have stopped talking to journalists directly. We have assigned two of our officials to talk to journalists," he told this newspaper on Wednesday evening.

Although Shahed boast of being a member of the AL's international affairs sub-committee during television talk-shows, party leaders are now denying his links with it.

At a press briefing at his office yesterday, Information Minister Hasan Mahmud, also the joint general secretary of the ruling AL, said,  "I use to visit our party office regularly. I don't know about his membership at any sub-committee of the Awami League."

Talking to The Daily Star, AL Joint General Secretary AFM Bahauddin Nasim said Shahed has no involvement with the party.  "Shahed doesn't hold any executive posts of any committees -- from central to grassroots level."

This newspaper has, however, obtained a copy of the list of the committee members. The committee is headed by ex-ambassador Muhammad Jamir. Shahed's name is mentioned there.

Contacted, AL leader and Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) President Dr Mostafa Jalal Mohiuddin termed the MoU with Regent Hospital "shameful".

"It was not ethical and the health ministry can't make such deals with any hospital without checking documents. The health ministry can't do it," he said, adding that the image of the party and the government was being tarnished due to such activities.

Referring to the presence of Swachip leaders at the signing ceremony, Jalal said they could not avoid their responsibility.

Former AL heath affairs secretary Badiuzzaman Bhuiyan said checking documents thoroughly was mandatory before signing any agreement.

"I don't know why the agreement was made without a proper scanning on such a sensitive issue," he said.

Without naming anyone, Badiuzzaman said, "The presence of a third party during a government's MoU signing ceremony naturally raises some questions."

Our Satkhira correspondent adds: Shahed was born to Sirajul Karim and Safia Karim in Kaman Nagar area of the district headquarters.

Safia was the former general secretary of Mohila Awami League, the women's wing of the AL, in the district. Shahed studied in Satkhira up to class nine before moving to Dhaka where he passed SSC from Rifles Public School and College.

They had a shop in Satkhira, but the family permanently moved to Dhaka after Safia died.

 

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