Rahim, Sahab tell of ISI link
Arrested former director general of National Security Intelligence (NSI) Brigadier General (retd) Md Abdur Rahim and former director (security) Wing Commander (retd) Sahabuddin Ahmed have given statements quite similar, to the court and the investigation officials.
They were arrested in connection with the case of 10 truck arms seized at Chittagong while being smuggled.
As reported in a few Bengali newspapers, they informed that Dubai-based business firm ARY Group and Pakistan's army intelligence service Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) were involved with the plan of smuggling the seized arms. They also disclosed the names of two officials of foreign organization involved with the incident.
However, the two former officials of NSI accused each other for assisting to reach the arms consignment to Indian secessionist organization Ulfa.
High officials of CID think though Rahim and Sahab gave statements accusing each other from their statements the main truth of the plan of smuggling the arms surfaced. From their statement it came out that ARY Group and Pakistan High Commission in Dhaka financed for bringing the arms consignment and the arms were brought with the assistance of ISI for Ulfa. Many NSI officials including these two knew the matter.
Brigadier Rahim in his statement mentioned Sahab's direct involvement in maintaining contact with ISI and ARY for reaching the arms consignment to Ulfa.
Sahab in his confessional statement in the court admitted holding several meeting at home and abroad under the directive of his senior officer Brigadier Rahim. However, he tactfully avoided the issue of his involvement in these works.
Though Sahabuddin in his interrogation at TFI cell in Dhaka gave elaborate description of the plan of smuggling the arms in the confessional statement in the court he avoided many of the facts. In the statement given to the court instead of mentioning names of ISI or any of its officials he mentioned meeting with foreigners. He also did not mention involvement of any country with the arms smuggling. However, during the interrogation at the TFI cell he mentioned the names of the foreigners and for which intelligence agency they work.
However, Brigadier Rahim in his statement mentioned the names of ARY and ISI, and clearly mentioned when, where and with which official he met. Even in his confessional statement at the court and during interrogation at the TFI cell he mentioned the name of the ISI Director General and admitted that he met with him in London. But he did not give any indication that plan to smuggle arms was made in these meetings. Rather he indicated that the issue of arms smuggling was finalised during Sahab's meeting with the ISI officials.
Brigadier General Rahim on Wednesday afternoon gave confessional statement under section 164 in the court of Chittagong metropolitan magistrate Osman Gani. Earlier Wing Commander (retd) Sahabuddin Ahmed gave similar confessional statement in the court of Chittagong magistrate Mohammad Abu Hannan on May 15.
A CID official involved with enquiry and investigation process said, "From the statements of these two former NSI officials we have been able to be confirmed of many unsettled truths. These truths added new speed to the investigation of the case." The official said now the investigating officials are finalizing how the people of NSI or other agencies got involved with this incident. The charge sheet of the case would be prepared on the basis of this.
In his confessional statement given in the court Rahim said when "he (Sahab) was appointed deputy director (security) he appealed to me and enticed me to make him my PS. As he was the director (security) and PS simultaneously he carefully used his power to meet with the detective officers of foreign embassy and exchange information. He developed good relations with ISI official brigadier Mogisuddin and Col Shahed Mahmud working in the Pakistan High Commission. I came to know this from his frequent meeting with them."
In the interrogation at the TFI cell he also informed, Sahab embezzled huge amount of foreign exchange in the name of checking Money Change office at Motijheel. But he could not catch him for want of evidence.
On the Dubai-based business firm ARY Group chief's Dhaka visit in 2004 Rahim told TFI cell, the Group MD Salman Iqbal came to Dhaka accompanied by an engineer. Sahab received them at the airport. Sahab arranged everything for them. He also gave his car for their use.
On the other hand Sahab in his confessional statement said, Director General Abdur Rahim directed him to take care of the ARY Group officials. On his (Rahim's) order he gave his car for their use. Bill of their lodging and food was also met from the NSI fund.
Admitting his going to London and meeting the ISI officials the former NSI chief said, he went to London to discuss about the payment of the money after Tk 2.5 crore mobile phone bugging devices were bought using the money received from ISI. There he had discussion with the ISI director general. During the discussion it was informed that these devices are gift on behalf of Pakistan. During the discussion Col Abdus Salam (a relative of Rahim), minister consul at London High Commission, was present.
However, on the meeting at London Rahim informed the TFI cell, when he went to London he took British Pound worth Tk 2.5 crore with him. He mentioned that the money was from NSI's government fund. He also admitted that he changed the money to Pound through Sahab and Liakat. He took the money for paying the price of telephone bugging devices.
However, earlier in interrogation on the same issue Sahab informed the amount was given to the ARY Group Director General as gift. Later he changed the money to Pound.
On contact with Dubai-based ARY Group as financier of the consignment of 10 truck arms and ammunitions, Brigadier Rahim in his confessional statement said, "About me Shahed Mohammad and brigadier Mogisuddin contacted with ARY and my PS Sahab Uddin coordinated. I used to frequently view ARY and QTV at my office. Observing my attraction to those TV channels Sahabuddin proposed me to become the local agent of QTV. Later he discussed the matter with the ISI officers. He made a guideline of the matter on which Bangladesh's NSI and Pakistan's ISI could cooperate."
However, Rahim told the TFI cell, ARY Group is a business firm, which enjoys blessings of ISI. And the officials of Pakistan High Commission are main patrons of Ulfa. During interrogation Sahab said he came to know the matter of Pakistan High Commission's request to help Ulfa from the Director General.
Admitting his going to Dubai at the invitation of ARY Brigadier Rahim in his confessional statement said, "On an invitation from ARY Group I along with my wife went to Dubai in June-July 2003 in connection with setting up QTV. We stayed in Dubai for three days. There we met with ARY Group MD Salman Iqbal and his father Haji Abdur Razzak Yusuf. We discussed whether there would be transmission of QTV in Bangladesh. They said if Bangladesh government gives permission they are interested."
In the statement at the TFI cell Rahim said, he was told on behalf of the ARY Group that if QTV were set up in Bangladesh he would be appointed its local agent.
Regarding Ulfa Brigadier Rahim said, Sahab Uddin tried to talk with him about Anup Chetia in March 2004. He said, "As I was not interested, he dropped the issue and said we should help Ulfa.
"I got infuriated at his proposal and said, Shall we give Bangladesh to Ulfa?" Then he (Sahab) got a pale face and left the place.
However, Sahab in his confessional statements in the court and in the TFI cell said, after the ARY Group officials came to Dhaka, the Director General held meeting with them at his personal Safe House. A meeting was also held at his residence. In that meeting Ulfa military chief Paresh Barua, two officials of ARY Group and officials of Pakistan High Commission were present.
On smuggling of arms and its seizure Rahim in his confessional statement said, "On April 2, 2004 when I reached Daudkandi Bridge on my way to my village the then state minister for home asked me over phone whether I know anything about seizure of arms at Chittagong. I told him that I know nothing. He told me "I suppose some people from NSI are involved. Though I got upset I recalled Sahab Uddin's uttering about helping Ulfa. I told the state minister, there is a black sheep in my office. His name is Sahab Uddin. He might be involved."
During interrogation at TFI cell Rahim said, one day after the arms consignment was seized he went to the Prime Minister's office and met her. He told the PM that Shahab Uddin is involved with the arms consignment. In exchange of huge amount of money from Indian Intelligence agency Sahab and Akbar leaked the news of the consignment.
During interrogation in this regard Sahab told the investigating officers, after he left the CMH for home on May 1, 2004 Major Liakat informed him about the seizure of the arms at deep night over phone. He told the TFI officials that when he phoned the Director General about this Brigadier Rahim told him not to discuss the matter over phone, come to his house and talk.
Sahab told the TFI officials, when later he wanted to know the Director General told him, "The Prime Minister's Office does not trust him [Sahab]." Sahab thinks, Akbar informed the police about the incident.
CID officials said it is not worth believing that the officials of an important state agency like NSI would cooperate in smuggling 10 trucks arms keeping the chief of the agency in dark. They said, they are examining the statement given by Rahim and Sahab.