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Bangladeshi lawmaker under scanner for human trafficking

Date: 2020-02-18 01:28:21
Source of News : DhakaTribune


The ruling party's general secretary said the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) will be asked to investigate the matter, reiterating Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s stance against corruption


The Bangladesh government on Sunday said that it will take legal steps against lawmaker Mohammad Shahid Islam, if the allegations regarding his involvement in human trafficking are found to be true.

"Legal measures will be taken if there is any complaint of corruption [against Shahid Islam],” Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader told reporters at his office.

The ruling party's general secretary said the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) will be asked to investigate the matter, reiterating Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s stance against corruption.

The comment came after different media outlets reported on allegations against Mohammad Shahid Islam, a member of parliament for Laxmipur-2 constituency, for human trafficking to Kuwait.

According to media reports in Kuwait, security authorities in the country are looking for a Bangladeshi parliamentarian who is allegedly involved in illegal visa trading.

The parliamentarian is believed to have gifted five expensive cars to senior government officials in Kuwait to get government contracts for the company he runs there, it said.

Three Bangladeshis, including the lawmaker involved

An unidentified Bangladeshi was arrested based on allegations of money laundering and trafficking, reports Al-Qabas, a daily which quoted the Ministry of Interior of Kuwait.

He is said to be a member of a three man gang while the other two fled the country sensing impending trouble.

The trio allegedly occupied sensitive positions in three major companies that brought more than 20,000 Bangladeshi menial workers to Kuwait in exchange for large sums of money believed to be more than 50 million dinars.

In conversation with officials at the Bangladesh Embassy in Kuwait, Dhaka Tribune learnt that the parliamentarian in question is Mohammad Shahid Islam MP of Lakshmipur-2 constituency in Bangladesh.

The company that he has been running there to send workers has not paid salaries to their workers for more than five months.

The lawmaker left the country a week ago sensing that he might be investigated by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Kuwait.

The workers who were brought to the country on government cleaning contracts by the company, discovered that they were victims of visa traders because their salaries were lower than what was stipulated in their contracts, reported media outlets in Kuwait.

Each Bangladeshi worker is paid between 1,800 and 2,200 dinars on an average, while drivers’ visas are “sold” for anything between 2,500 and 3,000 dinars.

When asked, the Bangladesh Ambassador in Kuwait ,SM Abul Kalam, told Dhaka Tribune that they have read multiple newspaper reports in Kuwait, but added that none of them mentioned the name of Bangladeshi lawmaker Mohammad Shahid Islam.

“They [reports] said that an MP from Bangladesh is involved in human trafficking,” he said.

“I have contacted the CID of Kuwait to acquire the name, but they refused to give me information,” he added.

Business identities

Mohammad Shahid Islam is a partner, managing director, and chief executive officer (CEO) of Marafie Kuwaitia Group which operates sectors such as engineering, contracting, logistics, and facility management in Kuwait, Oman, and Jordan.

The first time Shahid went to Kuwait was in 1992 when he joined a US-based company called Vector Marketing. He later joined Marafie Kuwaitia Company as general manager and later was appointed as managing director & CEO of the company.

The company offers nearly a dozen different services, including facility management, rental and leasing of heavy equipment, military logistics, electro-mechanical, electrical construction and engineering and maintenance, as well as general trading and contracting, and providing HR support services.

He is also the vice chairman at NRB Commercial Bank and chairman of NRB Security Exchange Company in Bangladesh. He is also a director at Crystal Energy Limited (CEL) in Bangladesh, Omera Energy in Singapore, and United Al-Ektesad International Money Remittance Company.

Shahid has shares worth Tk26 crore in Diganta Media Corporation Limited, according to documents obtained by Dhaka Tribune.

Moreover, it is also alleged that he conducted businesses with Jamaat e Islami leader Mir Quasem Ali, who was executed for war crimes committed during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971.

However, Shahid said he invested in Diganta Media Corporation Limited following a request from one of his relatives, and that it was a failed investment.

The rise of Shahid in politics

Someone who had no previous political background, Shahid suddenly appeared on the political landscape of Lakshmipur, three years prior to the 11th parliamentary elections.

In November 2016, Shahid organized a view-exchange programme in Raipur Upazila of Lakshmipur, where he introduced himself as the convener of Kuwait Awami League and announced the launch of various social and voluntary activities.

When Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Lakshmipur in March 2017, he received a seat on the same stage as the premier, as a guest at a public rally organized by the district Awami League.

Later, he continued to donate money for different programmes organized by the ruling party's Upazila and union units.

Soon, Shahid became the elected representative for Lakshmipur-2 constituency, while he also made sure that his wife Selina Islam becomes a parliamentarian, thanks to reserved seats for women.

He used to visit the locality on a helicopter to attract the attention of people, but Shahid claimed that his intentions were purely that of social service, and not politics.

Raipur Upazila Awami League general secretary Ismail Hossain Khokon said: “All the donations he [Shahid] gave for development in the last one year are from his personal funds. There was no coordination between him and the party regarding this.”

Lakshmipur district Awami League general secretary, advocate Nuruddin Chowdhury Nayan, declined to comment on this issue saying that he is sick.

Lakshmipur district Awami League president Golam Faruk Pingku, on the other hand, claimed that Shahid does not have a license for a recruiting business; neither does he have an office in Dhaka for this.

He claimed the allegations of him being involved in human trafficking are “baseless.”

People spreading falsehood because of jealousy, claims Shahid

When reached over the phone, lawmaker Mohammad Shahid Islam claimed that all these allegations are false and baseless.

“I am doing business in Kuwait for the last 30 years, mostly for the supply of heavy equipment. Staff from 29 countries are employed at my companies in Kuwait,” he said.

“I do not have a recruiting agency in my name in Bangladesh,” he said, claiming that some people who are jealous of his success as a lawmaker are spreading misinformation and lies.

“I did return to Bangladesh on February 8, but not for any problem there,” Shahid added.

Meanwhile, foreign minister AK Abdul Momen termed the news linking the Bangladeshi lawmaker with human trafficking as fake.

“I have heard that it is fake news,” he said, responding to questions from journalists.

“The government does not have any information on this, and the Kuwaiti mission [of Bangladesh] has said nothing about it yet," said Momen.

Questioning the authenticity of the news, Momen said the news was possibly reported by a newspaper which later questioned the veracity of the allegations itself.