Helena wringed money through illegal IPTV
Helena Jahangir, a businessperson who was arrested from her residence on Thursday, was "extorting money" through her illegal internet protocol television (IPTV) channel named Joyjatra Television, said the Rapid Action Battalion yesterday.
The extortion was two-pronged: first, when appointing the district and foreign correspondents Joyjatra Television; and later, the correspondents would extort money from people threatening unflattering news coverage.
Subsequently, a case was filed against her with the Pallabi Police Station yesterday under the Telecommunications Act for operating the IPTV channel without the government approval or licence and running its office in the capital's Mirpur area illegally.
This takes the total number of cases against Helena, who on July 24 was expelled from the Awami League's subcommittee on women's affairs for breaching party policies, to three.
Helena extorted Tk 10,000 to Tk 1 lakh in the name of appointing district and foreign correspondents for the IPTV channel that she founded in 2018, according to Khandaker Al Moin, director of Rab's legal and media wing.
She appointed 70-80 staff and correspondents and took money from most of them, he said at a media briefing held at the Rab headquarters in the capital.
"We have found some receipts of money deposit."
With the ID cards provided, the local and foreign correspondents went about extorting money for her. "We asked some of her office staff who said that Helena was aware of it."
Joyjatra Television was "spreading propaganda and misleading information" on digital platforms to defame important personalities and create panic and confusion in the public mind, Moin said.
"She first got befriended with important people of the state and later extorted money by blackmailing them. She took pictures with them at different times and spread them through social media only for this purpose."
Helena had a strong IT cell consisting of 15-20 people who maintained her social media platforms and ran publicity campaigns for her, according to Moin.
"Her ultimate goal was to earn name and fame so that everyone knows her," he said, adding that during interrogation, she said that people awarded her with various titles like "Pallimata", "Mother Teresa" and "Probashimata".
Moin said she has made negative remarks about the important personalities, which has put the state in an embarrassing situation.
"It's a matter of concern that she was heard saying on Facebook live that she didn't even care any minister."
The 49-year-old businesswoman inserted herself into public discourse recently with a Facebook post to form "Bangladesh Awami Chakrijibi League", a group with no official links to the ruling party. She claimed to be the organisation's president.
The episode prompted her expulsion from the subcommittee on women's affairs that she had joined six months earlier as well as from the advisory council of Cumilla (north) unit of AL.
After her arrest on Thursday, the Rab conducted a raid at the IPTV station and sealed it off.
During the raid, which included officials from the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, Rab found illegal satellite TV equipment though she was running the channel as an IPTV.
IPTV is a service that provides television programming and other video content through the internet using the internet protocol as opposed to traditional cable or satellite signals.
Helena also sacked many of the staff without giving salary and remuneration, he said, adding that 20-25 people work for the IPTV.
During primary interrogation, Helena said that she and her husband, Jahangir Alam, own five garment factories, 15-17 flats in Uttara, Mirpur and Gulshan areas and five-six cars, according to Moin.
Alam began working in a garment factory in 1990 and later started his own venture in partnership with others.
So far, he owns five companies, Moin said.
"There are Anti-Corruption Commission and the Criminal Investigation Department. They will look into these matters," Moin said, adding that Helena also runs the Joyjatra Foundation through which she collected money from non-resident Bangladeshis.
After being tipped off, law enforcers conducted a raid at Helena's residence in Gulshan and arrested her.
Foreign liquor, walkie-talkie, foreign currency, casino items and deer hide were found at the property, according to Rab.
On Friday, a Dhaka court placed Helena on a three-day remand in connection with a case Rab filed with Gulshan Police Station under the Digital Security Act.
She was also booked under the Narcotics Control Act, Special Powers Act and Wildlife Conservation Act.