Human Trafficking: ACC investigating Laxmipur-2 MP | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 27, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:59 AM, February 27, 2020

Human Trafficking: ACC investigating Laxmipur-2 MP

The ACC has opened an enquiry into an allegation that Laxmipur-2 MP Mohammad Shahid Islam amassed Tk 1,400 crore by trafficking people to Kuwait and siphoned off the money to different countries.

In an order issued on Tuesday, the Anti-Corruption Commission tasked one of its directors with carrying out the enquiry, said an official of the anti-graft watchdog, wishing not to be named.

Recently, some media outlets in Kuwait have run reports saying that three Bangladeshis were operating a human trafficking racket in the Middle Eastern country. On February 12, a report of the Arab Times, an English language daily, said one of the three was a "member of parliament in Bangladesh".

According to the report, which cited Arabic-language newspaper Al-Qabas, the trio "occupied sensitive positions" in three major companies that brought more than 20,000 Bangladeshi workers to Kuwait in exchange for an amount believed to be more than Tk 1,391.6 crore.

On February 16, the ACC received a complaint in writing. A 174-page letter attached with "evidence" came to its chairman, said one of its officials, without disclosing who sent the documents.

In the letter, the ACC was requested to look into Shahid's "illegal wealth" and take measures for their confiscation, the official said.

The letter said Shahid, director of a private bank established mainly for non-resident Bangladeshis, laundered Tk 1,400 crore to different countries. He amassed the money illegally through human trafficking, the official said.

The official also said Sahid allegedly brought in Tk 280 crore through illegal hundi system and different bank accounts from Kuwait in 2016.

Of the Tk 280 crore, about Tk 132 crore was deposited with the account of the chairman of a private bank. The managing director of a leading lubricants company helped him bring another Tk 40 crore to Bangladesh, according to the letter.

Shahid allegedly transferred the rest of the money to Bangladesh through the accounts of one of his sisters-in-law and a ladies' garment shop. He also bought shares of a private bank for Tk 50 crore, while his wife bought shares of the same bank for Tk 30 crore, the letter further said.

Shahid has three flats in Gulshan in the name of his wife and daughters, an ACC official said, adding that the lawmaker bought land worth about Tk 91 crore in Cumilla's Meghna upazila.

The MP also bought Tk 70 crore wage earners bond of Sonali Bank for his wife and daughter, the official said.

ACC sources said Shahid took out a loan from the bank in which he is a director. With the loan money, he bought two vehicles -- one SUV and one Sedan car -- for his sister-in-law.

"But Shahid himself is the actual beneficiary and using the cars for his own purposes," a source said. "Shahid has a fixed deposit worth about Tk 75 crore in the same private bank."

ACC sources also said the lawmaker allegedly took illegal bank guarantee facilities to supply stone to Rooppur Nuclear Power Project.

"In this connection, he laundered about $20 million to the UAE from Kuwait," another ACC official said.

Contacted over the phone yesterday, the lawmaker denied the allegations.

Shahid, who is now in Kuwait, told this correspondent that he has been in construction business for the last 30 years.

"About 26,000 people work in my Marafie Kuwaitia General Contracting Company. Of them, about 20,000 are from Bangladesh and the rest are from different other countries, including India and Nepal," he said.

"I don't have any businesses in Bangladesh. I have never made any illegal transaction and have always used proper banking channels," he added.

In an email last evening, Shahid also said, "We do not have any recruiting offices, licences or travel agencies in Bangladesh/ Kuwait or any other countries. In addition, we have internal and external auditors from some well reputed international organisations."

He also said he came to Bangladesh and went back to Kuwait on February 16.

The Arab Times report, which shed light on the alleged involvement of the three Bangladeshis in human trafficking, also said the Kuwait authorities nabbed a member of the racket.

The two other Bangladeshis have left the Gulf country after sensing trouble, the report said, but it did not mention when the workers were brought into that country.

According to the data of Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training in Bangladesh, 12,299 Bangladeshi workers went to Kuwait last year. The previous year, the number was 27,637.

According to the Arab Times report, Kuwait's Criminal Investigation Department has concluded through investigations that the three men have a large network of Bangladeshi employees working for them and are involved in trafficking.

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