They were next-door neighbours.
Fakirerpool Young Men’s Club and Dhaka Wanderers Club that had been running “casinos” are just behind the Motijheel Police Station, separated only by the walls of a police barracks.
About 100 feet further ahead, two more casinos at Arambagh Sporting Club and Dilkusha Sporting Club had been in operation round-the-clock for a number of years now.
But police never shut them down.
A few years ago, these clubs had shabby walls. Now, they have a gorgeous look with neon lights and eye-catching interiors to attract visitors.
On Wednesday, Rab arrested Jubo League Dhaka South Organising Secretary Khalid Mahmud Bhuiyan for running a “casino” in Fakirerpool Young Men’s Club.
The Rab team led by a magistrate also raided at least five clubs in the city and detained and sentenced 182 people in connection with running “casinos”, gambling, and drug abuse. Rab also sealed off two casinos.
Jubo League leader Ismail Chowdhury Samrat used to sit in Victoria Club while Dhaka South City Corporation Councillor AKM Mominul Haque Sayeed used to spend time in Dhaka Wanderers Club, sources said.
Meanwhile, Khalid, also president of Fakirerpool Young Men’s Club, was placed on a seven-day remand yesterday.
In a fresh raid, Rab busted a torture cell that he allegedly run in a building near Kamalapur Railway Station early yesterday. They also recovered different tools for torture, including two machines to apply electric shock and five sticks.
Rab officials said Khalid used the cell to torture people who refused to give him money as per his demand.
Visiting the “Motijheel Club Para” area yesterday, Fakirerpool Young Men’s Club and Dhaka Wanderers Club were seen sealed off while four others were found locked.
At least six such clubs out of the 11 in this area first started with housie games. They were later turned into casinos.
Some top leaders of the ruling Awami League’s youth front Jubo League and other associate bodies took control of these clubs after the “one-sided” election in 2014 and started running the casinos.
They had visitors of all sorts -- police, politicians, businessmen, journalists, and other service holders, according to locals and sports organisers.
Not only in this area, such casino clubs mushroomed also in other parts of the capital over the years.
Law enforcers say at least 50 casinos may be operating in the capital.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Shafiqul Islam yesterday said he instructed his officials to make a list of all illegal gambling places and casinos in Dhaka.
Sports organisers said some of the renowned sporting clubs used to run housie games since the 1980s with permission from deputy commissioners to meet their expenses.
Leaders of different associate bodies of the party in power have long been involved in this. After the Awami League came to power, some leaders of its associate bodies started running the casinos, they added.
Once these sporting clubs used to be a place for passing leisure times for sports lovers and organisers.
The original organisers, who were involved with these sporting clubs, gradually stopped coming after ruling party men took control of them to make money, said a number of sports organisers.
“A real sports organiser wants his club to make players. But things have changed now. A section of ruling party leaders with the help of police turned some of these clubs into casinos to make money instead,” said an official of Bangladesh Football Federation.
“In the past, organisers joined the clubs to ‘give’. But now the opportunists come here to ‘take’,” he said, adding that they were just using the signboard of these clubs to make money.
“Police were silent. They were beneficiaries too. Actually, police don’t have the power to catch them without the permission of the highest authorities,” he said, asking not to be named.
Dhaka Deputy Commissioner Abu Saleh Mohammad Ferdous Khan said he was not aware if any of his predecessors gave any permission to run casinos, but confirmed no one sought such a permission recently.
Motijheel Police Station Officer-in-charge Omar Faruk did not pick up the call. Its inspector (operations) Rafiqul Islam declined to comment about how these casinos could operate so long under their nose.
But Anwar Hossain, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Motijheel division), said it was not true that they did nothing.
“We launched drives several times and closed those casinos,” he said, and promised tougher actions in future.
Responding to the alleged involvement of law enforcers, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal vowed action against anyone involved in assisting or controlling these casinos.
“We conducted the drive based on intelligence information. People in the administration will be brought to book if their link is found,” he told reporters at his secretariat office yesterday.
About the torture cell allegedly run by Khalid, the minister said, “I heard about it. Action will be taken based on investigation.”