Ishtiaq Ahmed was a ragpicker 18 years back. But now, he is known as a big businessman among locals in Savar and Ashulia on the outskirts of the capital.
Born in Mohammadpur Geneva camp, he did odd jobs like collecting discarded bottles from roadsides. But in early 2004, he started working as a drug carrier and that changed his life.
In the following years, he built his own syndicate, got into transport business and started to carry yaba on trucks.
Now 32, he moves in personal cars and owns at least 50 trucks and buses and eight luxurious buildings in Dhaka's Mohammadpur, Uttara, Aminbazar and Ashulia.
He has over 100 bighas of land in Savar and Ashulia, where people mostly know him as Kamrul Islam, according to an investigation report by a law enforcement agency.
Ishtiaq is well known in Savar as he buys land from needy people by paying them high prices, said locals.
Based on information from law enforcement sources, this correspondent visited one of Ishtiaq's houses on April 27. It is a seven-storey building near Berun Bus Stand of Ashulia, with a number of CCTV cameras installed in the front.
Neither Ishtiaq nor any of his family members could be found. Locals said the building owner is Kamrul Islam, a businessman who mostly stays abroad.
Ibrahim Dulal, a security guard, said he was appointed a month back but he never saw the owner. Sometimes, one or two policemen come to collect information about the owner.
Officials of the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) claimed that they failed to nab Ishtiaq as he kept changing places hiding identity. Besides, his houses are equipped with surveillance cameras and he stays alert to possible raids.
Khurshid Alam, assistant director of the DNC, told The Daily Star that Ishtiaq is one of the top yaba dealers in Dhaka. “We have conducted drives to arrest him a number of times but he always managed to flee noticing our presence through CCTV cameras.”
The Daily Star obtained a video clip of a drive that DNC officials conducted at his Ashulia house on November 21 last year.
In the footage, one staff named Majhar said the owner left the house with all of his family members just half an hour before the law enforcers came. All the staff know him as Kamrul Islam.
According to official sources, Ishtiaq built his empire in the last 14 to 12 years and eventually became the “yaba lord”.
Yaba supplies in Mohammadpur, Gabtoli, Aminbazar, Beribadh, Hemayetpur and Ashulia are reportedly managed by Ishtiaq and his syndicate members, according to sources.
He often visits Cox's Bazar by air and resides in lavish hotels there. He is now reportedly trying to expand his network to India and Malaysia, investigators found.
Law enforcers said at least a hundred people work in Geneva camp under Ishtiaq's command. They run the narcotics business being dividing into 10 separate units.
He is wanted in at least 15 separate cases, including that for possession of narcotics and murder, with Mohammadpur Police Station. Officials already submitted charge sheets against him in three narcotics cases.
Some of his top operatives are Nadim Hossain alias Pachis, Selim alias Chua alias Chora Selim and Molla Arshad.
Of them, 31-year-old Nadim runs yaba, heroin and cannabis trade on behalf of Ishtiaq. Born and brought up in Geneva camp, he earlier worked as a cleaner in a hotel.
As a teenager, he used to sell small packets of cannabis at Tk 25 each. That's why people started calling him Pachis (twenty-five in English).
On November 3 last year, DNC officials in a joint drive with Rab, police and Armed Police Battalion (APBn) personnel arrested Pachis, but he managed to get bail within 12 days. He then went into hiding and law enforcers now have no clue as to his whereabouts.
Ishtiaq also hires women, mainly for carrying drugs, law enforcers said.
[Our Savar correspondent Akash Mahmud contributed to the report]