The crackdown on corruption and casino business was one of the most-discussed topics in the outgoing year of 2019 that led to the arrest of around 275 people, including some Juba League leaders and ward councillors of Dhaka.
Law enforcers launched the drive after Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina at a joint meeting of the party on September 7 had ordered a purge on her own party.
The matter of illegal casino business came to the fore after elite force Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) busted a casino inside Fakirerpool Youngmen's Club on September 18. Later, more casinos were unearthed at Dhaka Wanderers’ Club, Muktijoddha Sangsad Krira Chakra, Mohammedan Sporting Club and Kalabagan Krira Chakra.
Huge cash money, liquor and arms and ammunition were seized during the raids that were conducted either on houses or business establishments or offices of the party leaders.
Law enforcement agencies said at least 50 drives were conducted at various places, including Dhaka city, between September 18 and October 31. Of them, Rab carried out 30 while the Department of Narcotics Control one and police the rest.
Some 275 people, including six leaders of Jubo League, three ward councillors of Dhaka city corporations and one Krishak League leader, were arrested while 18 firearms, 277 bullets, about Tk 8 crore in cash, huge amount of foreign currency, narcotics and gambling equipment were recovered during the operations.
On September 18, Rab conducted the first raid on a casino inside Fakirerpool Youngmen's Club.
Around Tk 24.29 lakh, a huge cache of gambling equipment and illegal liquor were seized from the club. During the drive, Rab had primarily detained 144 people, including two women employees. The women were released after primary interrogation. Thirty-one of the detainees were jailed for a year while the rest for six months.
Hours after the drive, club president and Jubo League’s Dhaka South unit Organising Secretary Khalid Mahmud Bhuiyan was arrested from his Gulshan residence. Three firearms, several bullets and Yaba pills were also recovered from his residence.
The elite force later raided another casino inside Dhaka Wanderers’ Club at Fakirerpool, seizing alcohol, cash and gambling equipment. The club is situated right next to the Youngmen’s Club. However, nobody was found inside the establishment during the drive.
Another Rab team sealed off a casino named Golden Dhaka Bangladesh inside Ahmmed Tower at Banani. The elite force also detained 40 people from another casino housed inside Muktijoddha Sangsad Krira Chakra, a leading sports club on the same day.
It was allegedly being run by expelled Jubo League Dhaka South unit President Ismail Hossain Chowdhury Samrat whose photo was found hanging in a room of the casino. The elite force also conducted similar drives in Kakrail and Elephant Road areas on the day.
Rab raided the house and office of GK Shamim, who amassed huge wealth as a contractor identifying himself as a Jubo League leader, in the city’s Niketon area on September 20 and arrested him along with illegal firearms and a huge amount of money. They seized Tk 165 crore in Fixed Deposit Receipts (FDRs) and Tk 1.8 crore in cash and foreign currencies, a foreign-made pistol, seven shotguns and a huge cache of bullets from the office of GKB & Company Pvt Limited, owned by Shamim, during the drive.
Lokman Hossain Bhuiyan, director (in-charge) of Mohammedan Sporting Club Ltd, was detained by Rab from his Manipuripara residence on September 22. It also recovered an unspecific quantity of liquor from the house.
The elite force conducted the drive following the seizure of casino board, cards, gambling boards and liquor from Mohammedan Sporting Club Ltd in the city’s Motijheel area on the same day.
It arrested Salim Prodhan, the online gambling kingpin, from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on September 30 on charges of running an online casino and laundering money abroad. He was offloaded from a flight for to Bangkok.
On October 6, Rab arrested Jubo League’s Dhaka South unit President Samrat and his associate Arman from a hideout in Chauddagram upazila of Cumilla.
A mobile court, led by Rab Executive Magistrate Sarwoer Alam, sentenced Samrat to six months’ simple imprisonment under the Wildlife Conservation Act after the elite force recovered two hides of kangaroo from his Kakrail office.
Arman was also sentenced to six months’ jail as he was found drunk when he was arrested. He was sent to Comilla Central Jail.
Councillor from ward-32 of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) Habibur Rahman Mizan, widely known as ‘Pagla Mizan, was arrested from Sreemangal in Moulvibazar on October 11 morning while he was trying to flee to India. After his arrest, a Rab team, led by its Executive Magistrate Sarwoer Alam, raided Mizan’s house on Aurangzeb Road and his office at Lalmatia in Mohammadpur in the capital and recovered a foreign pistol, four bullets, Tk 2 lakh in cash, cheques for Tk 6.77 crore and FDR of Tk 1 crore from his house.
Tarequzzaman Rajib, councillor from ward-33 of DNCC, was arrested by Rab on October 18 night from a house in Bashundhara Residential Area. He went into hiding after the crackdown on illegal casino business began on September 18.
Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) ward councillor and Awami League leader Moinul Haque Monju was arrested from his Tikatuli office in Dhaka during a drive on October 31 on charge of extortion. His name surfaced when the special anti-corruption drive began.
According to a nationwide phone survey conducted across eight divisions of the country over the casino drives, around 97 percent people are satisfied with the drive against casino business.
Research International, a research and communication strategy development affairs firm, carried out the survey among 4,100 people between September 28 and October 3.
A total of 58 percent respondents believed that leaders of all parties, who came to power in different terms, were directly involved with the illegal casino business while 34 percent thought that some of the current leaders have indirect involvement, according to the survey.