Trapped in the ‘Game Ghor’
Nuruzzaman Raju owned a mobile phone repair shop in the capital's Gulistan.
In the hopes of starting a better life in Europe, the 29-year-old sold his shop for around Tk 12 lakh and left the country for Italy in March this year.
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A human trafficking racket first sent him to Dubai and then to Libya.
But his journey came to a sudden stop after Raju reached Libya's Benghazi. There, he has spent the last eight months confined to a place called the "Game Ghor", where migrants are tortured and extorted.
This is how, Raju's father Aminul Islam, narrated the tragic turn of events that transpired with his son.
"I get calls from my son every two-three days. Goons are torturing Raju for ransom. He is crying out for help but I'm helpless," said Aminul.
"They sent me videos of them torturing Raju, asking for Tk 10 lakh," said Aminul.
"When I said I don't have that kind of money, a Bangladeshi identifying himself as Sharif called me and made a deal for Tk 7 lakh," he said.
Aminul said he was able to manage Tk 5.5 lakh after selling his property and taking out a loan. He then deposited the money into two bank accounts and a Mobile Financial Services (MFS) account in November.
"But my son was not released. I tried calling Sharif but found his number switched off for the last 20 days," he said.
"When I asked Raju, he said his captors told him they only received a payment of Tk 2.5 lakh," said Aminul.
According to investigators, Raju is not the only prisoner at the Game Ghor.
At least 300 Bangladeshis are presently held hostage there, said the human trafficking wing of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit.
A Bangladeshi named Sharif Hossain is the ringleader. He has around 40 agents spread across the country, who allure their victims with the hopes of a better life in Europe.
For the journey, the criminals charge each person around Tk 9.5 lakh. They don't stop there, as they go on to collect a hefty payment as ransom after the migrants reach Libya.
CTTC officials first came to know about the racket on November 4 this year following the arrest of two Bangladeshi members.
Last month, CTTC arrested four more members, including Sharif's sister-in-law, who oversaw the ransom payments.
Sharif's wife Sumona Sumi, a key member of the racket, however, managed to flee to Libya on November 30, said officials.
The six arrestees are now in jail.
Tohidul Islam, the additional deputy commissioner of the CTTC unit, said, "We have come to know that several hundred Bangladeshis are currently trapped in the Game Ghor."
He explained that the number increased because the traffickers were unable to send these individuals to European nations because of the recent tightening of their border security.
"We are now writing to Interpol seeking assistance in rescuing the Bangladeshi migrants and arresting Sharif and his wife from Libya," added Tohidul.
THEY CALL IT GAME
Investigators said that the racket has managed to extort crores by torturing the fortune seekers in the last two years.
ADC Tohidul said after analysing a total of 70 accounts (both bank and MFS) kept by the racket members, they discovered transactions worth around Tk 5 crore between January 2021 and November this year.
The syndicate chooses the sea routes for transporting people from Libya to Europe. Sometimes the boat sinks into the sea, and the migrants are unable to reach their destinations.
For this reason, the racket calls it a game.