The rise of Monir Hossain, also known as Golden Monir, over almost two decades was unaffected by regime change because he knew how to keep high-ups in the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha and the housing and public works ministry happy.
Investigators said his rise began in 2001. By 2006, he had become a big player in Badda's DIT project with the blessings of an influential minister of the then BNP-led government and then Rajuk Chairman Abdur Rahman, grabbing many plots meant for the low-income people.
The ruling party changed, but he marched on.
Recently, he presented a Prado SUV to an incumbent state minister.
The result is 202 plots worth Tk 200 crore in Dhaka, of which 192 plots are in Badda, seven in Purbachal, a 70-katha plot and a school in Nikunja. Monir is also the owner of Safa Tower in Uttara, which is currently under construction.
Besides, he also has a car dealership on Pragati Sarani called Auto Car Selection and, till recently, was one of the owners of ZamZam Tower in Uttara.
Investigators also found that he has property in Keraniganj and Turag areas.
In 25 bank accounts including 19 in one private bank, Monir has had transactions totalling over Tk 930 crore -- Tk 412.12 crore in credit and Tk 518.20 crore in debit – and has loans of about Tk 110 crore with different banks, investigators found.
He is also involved in laundering money and has siphoned huge sums abroad through hundi.
The investigators said although he has wealth and income of over a thousand crore taka, his income tax file says a different story.
According to his 2019-20 income tax file, Monir showed wealth worth Tk 25.82 crore and income of Tk 1.04 crore.
Rab seized three luxury cars from Monir's dealership and two such vehicles from his residence on Saturday. One of the latter belonged to a whip and member of parliament of greater Mymensingh area, who got the SUV in 2017 and sold it off to Monir for Tk 1.3 core. According to law, an MP cannot transfer ownership of his duty-free vehicle within five years of its purchase.
The Daily Star called the MP, but he did not receive the call and his phone was found switched off a minute later.
Investigators said Monir was earlier detained by Rab in 2004 for speeding while driving in Badda.
Maintaining good relations with top officials of Rajuk, Monir was also involved in dealing with Rajuk recruitment and different land projects from 2001-18.
Asked, former Rajuk Chairman Abdur Rahman denied the allegations that he had any links to what Monir did.
"In my tenure, I had no intimacy with Monir. I came to know about his frauds and corruption after I retired," he added.
Rab arrested Monir on Saturday after a 12-hour raid at his six-storey building on Road-11 in Merul Badda.
The crime busters recovered gold ornaments weighing 8kgs, Tk 1.09 crore in cash, Tk 9 lakh in currencies of 10 countries, five SUVs, a pistol, four bullets and four litres of foreign liquor.
They also found forged land ownership documents and 32 fake seals of land management officials at his home and office. Using these, Monir used to take over lands belonging to other people, Rab said.
Rab said Monir has amassed over Tk 1,050 crore by forging Rajuk documents, gold smuggling, land grabbing and other crimes.
Describing his background, Rab said Monir worked as a salesperson at different shopping malls in the capital in the 90s. Then he worked at a crockeries shop in Mouchak Market. Later, he started luggage business via Dhaka-Thailand-Dhaka -- bringing goods hidden inside luggage to dodge tax.
At one stage, he started smuggling huge amounts of gold into Bangladesh via Dhaka-Singapore-India. People started calling him "Golden Monir" for gold smuggling. He then opened his own jewellery shop, "Uma Jewellers", in Baitul Mukarram Market.
MONIR WAS UNTOUCHED
Fazlul Haque, an owner of Poly Overseas Ltd had been using a room on the fifth floor of Rajuk on contract basis since 1986. Later, Fazlul rented the room to Monir. On October 15, 2019, Rajuk conducted a drive at the room and recovered documents of 70 plots, 15 seals of Rajuk officials, 170 recommendation letters of city corporation and other documents.
Then, Motijheel police arrested Rajuk official Parvez Chowdhury. The other accused -- Monir, Zinnah and Nasir -- were on the run.
Investigators said police took no action against Monir because of the influence wielded by the state minister.
The Daily Star called the state minister several times and sent texts for his comments about the allegations yesterday evening, but got no reply.
Rajuk Chairman Sayeed Noor Alam yesterday told reporters that they would take action against officials if anyone is found involved, and also cancel the plots of Monir if any irregularities are found in the process.
He said, "It didn't happen in one day, it has been happening for a long time. We have been able to unveil it when we came to know about it last year… we took action."
When asked why action was not taken earlier, he said last year's operation was Rajuk's own and that they will take action if any other people are found involved after police file a charge sheet in the case.
Regarding VIP protocol given to Monir by Rajuk, the chairman said, "We preserved documents according to government rules. No VIP protocol was given to anyone. There was no violation of rules here."
When asked whether one person owning over 200 plots was not seen as an irregularity, the Rajuk chief said, "These need to be verified. We will take action after that. There will be no irregularities in the future," he said.
Asked whether any cleansing operations will be carried out, he said, "We have that plan."
RAB TO WRITE TO FOUR AGENCIES
Meanwhile, Monir was placed on 18 days' remand yesterday under the Special Powers Act, Narcotics Control Act and Arms Act.
At a press briefing yesterday, Rab Legal and Media Wing Director Lt Col Ashique Billah said they are working to identify the patrons behind the rise of Monir.
He also said there was a previous corruption case against Monir, brought by the Anti-Corruption Commission in 2012.
The Rab official said the amount Monir mentioned in the income tax file is far from reality.
Rab will write to the Anti-Corruption Commission, National Board of Revenue, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority and Rajuk to launch investigations into him, he said.