Even two weeks after the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) seized a huge stack of rice while being smuggled from the government silo in Chittagong city, the mastermind of the incident is yet to be arrested.
However, the RAB has arrested Pronay Chakma, acting manager of the Central Supply Depot (CSD) in the city’s Halishahar area, and four truck drivers and helpers — Shamsul Huda, Mizan, Shafi Alam and Md Osman — in this connection.
The arrestees primarily admitted that CSD Storage Assistant Manager Fakhrul Alam, who has been on the run, was linked to the smuggling. The law-enforcers are carrying out raids to arrest him.
Interestingly, Fakhrul was transferred soon after the incident.
On July 17, acting on a tip-off, a team of RAB-7 raided Halishahar and City Gate areas and seized seven trucks carrying 3,096 sacks of 155 tonnes rice while those were being smuggled from the government warehouse.
Meanwhile, two other suspected masterminds — Malek Majhi, a trader who used to frequent to the warehouse and also involved in earlier wheat smuggling, and Nuru Sawdagar, a rice trader from Khatungang wholesale market — too have been absconding following the incident.
It is not the first incident of rice being smuggled from the CSD warehouse, since such an incident (wheat smuggling) was reported quite a few times in the past.
Nuru Sawdagar was sued at Halishahar Police Station over the incident but no case is filed against him at Akbar Shah Police Station in this connection.
Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Akbar Shah Police Station, Md Alamgir, told reporters that Majhi has been accused in this connection.
Story of Malek Majhi and Nuru Sawdagar:
Hailing from Barisal, Malek Majhi had come to Chittagong 25 years ago and started working as a labourer. But, in course of time, he became a millionaire and now owns a number of houses including a luxurious building.
He has 12 warehouses and floating ghat in the city. He also trades coal.
When contacted, he also admitted about his financial solvency, saying he constructed a building at Majhirghat area using a bank loan 3 to 4 years ago.
Malek Majhi, while talking about the rice smuggling, said he just rent out warehouses to many companies or businesses.
When asked about the smuggled rice, he said there are number of companies who kept their goods on my warehouse.
“Nuru, owner of Shamim Enterprise at Khatunganj, took lease of my warehouse many times. In the latest deed, I rented it out to him for five years. A few days ago, he kept some sacks of wheat in the warehouse. Nuru, mostly would buy rice and wheat from the CSD, which this is nothing new for me,” Malek said.
“I never doubted that Nuru might be linked to smuggling as he always posed as an honest fair trader”, he claimed.
How the probe is going on:
District Food Officer Md Jahirul Haq said RAB is investigating into the matter of their own.
“And, we are auditing the rice stored at the depot”, he said, adding, the CSD still have a 63-tonne additional storage capacity.
When asked about Fakhrul’s transfer, he said they had to do so since they were in a crying need of a new manager for the depot.
In another development
Luxury life of two suspects discloses in social media over wheat corruption
Chittagong-Kamrul and Mamun, two wanted fugitives of the Chittagong sensational wheat embezzlement case, have reportedly been leading a luxurious and enjoyable life in Singapore as they posted their photos in the social media that exactly means what they are.
Their posted photos in the Facebook page show that they are roaming at different casinos in Singapore , posing photos with the beautiful girls and eating high pricy items in the five- star hotels in the country ignoring the court’s order.
On May, 31, Sheikh Azizul Islam, managing director of Hazi Asraf Ali and Sons Limited, also the complaint, sued a case regarding the wheat corruption accusing the five people.
Of the five accused, Akhtaruzzaman alias Mamun Khan, managing director of M/S Sweet Home Construction Limited and Kamrul Islam, managing director of JK Shipping Lines were also involved in the case.
Earlier, a Chittagong court issued the arrest warrants for the duo and three others accused as the investigators found their involvement in the embezzlement of wheat shipment.
Three others accused are Saiful Islam, Managing Director (MD) of Rokeya Automatic Flower Mills Limited; Nurul Islam, son of Kamrul Islam; and Malek Majhi, son of Motaher Ali in Chittagong.
Earlier on October, 2, one of the accused of the case, Saiful was produced before the court as police prayed for 10-day demand plea but the court later dismissed both the remand and bail petition.The court also ordered the investigators to arrest the others accused immediately, including Kamrul and Mamun.
Chittagong Metropolitan Court (CMM) Magistrate Nazmul Hasan Chowdhury passed the order.
On October, 5, Islam surrendered before the court in a case related to wheat embezzlement worth Tk around 100 crore but the court later sent him to jail rejecting his bail plea.
On Thursday, the court again rejected Saiful’s bail application after he was appeared in the court and appealed for the bail.
Mentionable, a Korea-based a legal aid farm, Auro Law Office, which works for Meritz fire & Marine Insurance Co, Ltd, Republic of Korea, sent a email to the complaint Hazi Sheikh Asraf Ali and urged him, saying that we will send a five- member body for the recovery of the embezzled wheat.
The five-member body will arrive in Dhaka in the third week of October this year, said the Korea-based law farm.
The farm added that they are interested in the cargo and any matters related to its recovery procedure under relevant marine cargo insurance policy and subsequent subrogation rights.
The farm also said ‘‘We understand you have filed a police case (no.20) in Bandar Thana, Chittagong, Bangladesh on 30, May 2015 in respect of the cargo and we being underwriters of the cargo are willing to discuss with you about the same.’’
Earlier, an influential syndicate of frauds has embezzled 33,000 metric tons of wheat worth around Tk 100 crore imported for the Food Department.
The syndicate members have been on the run after the Anti-Corruption Commission had filed a case against them in this regard.
An ACC official in Chittagong on return for anonymity said as an influential group remains behind the embezzlement that is why the criminals are still at large despite law enforcers’ efforts to pick them up.
Mentioning that the fraud group is sheltered by a strong political clout, the official said the embezzled wheat was imported by Korean wheat supplier M/S Samojing C and C Com Ltd.
The ACC official said the commission has already issued a ban order to the local police station and airport immigration authorities so that the accused cannot leave
ACC sources said the South Korean supplier company signed an agreement with the Food Department to supply 50,000 metric tons of wheat.
As per the deal, the company provided 19,500 metric tons of wheat through Mongla Port to the Food Department and the rest 33,000 tons was supposed to delivery in Chittagong port.
As per the direction of the authorities, Mother Vessel had arrived to the port on August, 6, 2014 but the accused group hatched a plot over its unloading.
ACC further said the opportunists took the chance due to the discord between the shipping agent and the supplier.
The accused syndicate was looking for the opportunity to steal the imported wheat, the ACC sources said adding that they embezzled the wheat from the port without any barrier as the authorities concerned remained silent and did not make any move against them.
It is interesting to note while the government declined to receive the wheat, the fraud group took the advantage in disguise of buyers and sellers themselves, alleged the ACC sources.
Sheikh Azizul Haque, managing partner of M/S Sheikh Ashraf Ali & Sons, said that he filed a fraud and theft case in connection with the wheat theft with Chittagong port police station against J K Shipping Lines but the case was shifted to ACC later.
Haque said the ACC had issued a notice to the accused to appear before its office and explain the theft incident but they ignored the order and later the commission sent a letter to the country’s all immigration offices so that the accused cannot flee the country.
The commission sources said even the accused syndicate threatened the Korean supplier so that the company could not try to get the stolen wheat back from them.
South Korean national Hco Man Woog, president of Samjing company, said he filed a general diary (GD) with the port police station against the accused and later the case was shifted to the court which ordered that the quality and quantity of the wheat should be kept in intact after unloading until the case is resolved.
Following the court order, he added, the port authorities released the wheat from the vessel and stocked in nine warehouses. But the wheat was sold to the local market for nearly Tk 850 million with the help of the shipping agent, denying the court injunction.
On January, 4, 2014, Samjing Company had signed an agreement with local exclusive agent Hazi Ashraf Ali and Sons.
According to the contract, local exclusive agent Ashraf Ali was doing its duty, but a group of dishonest section of people signed another deal secretly with repealing the local exclusive agent’s deal to implement their bad motive even without giving any prior notice to the agent, the agent sources said.
Following the incident, local agent Hazi Ashraf Ali and Sons filed a case against Samjing Company with a Chittagong court demanding Tk 60 millions, Dhaka court officials said.
After hearing the incident, the court issued an order to meet demand of Hazi Ali Ashraf and Sons by selling 7,000 metric tons wheat from the stock, official said.
After getting the court order in hand, Seikh Azizul Haque, partner of Hazi Ashraf Ali and Sons, went to the vessel stock but saw that stock is empty, claimed Azizul Hoque.
Mentioning the buyers and sellers as company partners one another, he said the syndicate took away around 33,000 metric tons of wheat in disguise of buyer and seller themselves.
ACC also said that the investigation has already been launched into the huge amount of wheat embezzlement.
Meanwhile, the vicious circle is trying to dodge the case in different ways and lobbying for transferring it to police from the ACC.