Right out of a blockbuster film, the duo fled in an air ambulance from Dhaka to Bangkok
Sikder Group Managing Director Ron Haque Sikder and his brother Dipu Haque Sikder – both accused of threatening to shoot and torture two top officials of Exim Bank over a loan – fled the country by a private air ambulance, but the authorities seem not to know anything.
Due to an active travel ban for the Covid-19 pandemic, no international passenger flights are operating from Bangladesh, except some chartered flights.
Amid this crisis, when the news of their leaving the country for Thailand emerged, the question arose – How did they manage to accomplish such a feat?
Ever since the case was filed against them with Gulshan police station in the capital on May 19, investigators have been claiming that they were trying to find the whereabouts of the brothers so as to make an arrest.
Now, they are saying that an investigation is ongoing regarding the air ambulance flight.
In the case details, they were accused of threatening and abusing the Exim Bank Managing Director (MD) Mohammad Haider Ali Mia and Additional MD Mohammad Firoz Hossain.
Later, National Bank Limited, a concern of Sikder Group, refuted the allegations through their lawyer Abdul Baset Majumder stating that the case was filed to socially defame them.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Deputy Commissioner (DC-Gulshan division) Sudip Kumar Chakraborty said: “We are looking into the matter.”
Air ambulance to Thailand
Sources said it took only three days for them to leave Dhaka after managing medical visas and approval of landing in Thailand. The Bangladesh embassy in Thailand sent a letter to the Foreign Ministry of Thailand on May 23 requesting for landing permission for the ambulance with two “critical patients.” The permission was granted and visas were granted the next day from the Thai embassy in Dhaka.
The air ambulance left the country for Bangkok in the morning on May 25.
Sources said the medical emergency certificate which they used for the procedure was issued by Zainul Haque Sikder Women's Medical College, a sister concern of Sikder Group.
Replying to a question, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told this correspondent that he was not informed. “I do not know of the matter at all,” he said.
According to sources, the brothers took a private air ambulance of R&R Aviation, another concern of Sikder Group. The aviation company has not rented an aircraft since May 20 and would resume operations from May 30.
R&R Aviation has one Hawker 800 aircraft, one Bell 230 helicopter, one Robinson 44 helicopter, and two units of Eurocopter EC130.
Sources at the airport said the brothers did not have to face immigration and customs checking points.
Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) Director Group Captain AHM Touhid-ul Ahsan told Dhaka Tribune that the Foreign Ministry authorized an air ambulance flight to leave Dhaka at 9:11am with two persons.
“We have sought detailed information on the passengers. But R&R Aviation Limited did not cooperate,” he said.
“Generally, we are the authority to record the departure of flights and landing time. Immigration authorities here should have recorded other information,” he said.
However, two immigration officers at the airport told Dhaka Tribune that they could not find any record on file about the two passengers.
Civil Aviation Authority, Bangladesh (CAAB) Chairman, Air Vice Marshal M Mofidur Rahman said: “No one can fly from here with an air ambulance without legal permission.”
“But we cannot do anything – stop them or cancel their flights – if law enforcing agencies do not provide information and ask us to take that step. We do not allow anyone without documented permission either,” he said.
Passenger flights between Bangladesh and Thailand were suspended since March 26 due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the CAAB official.
Abdul Baset Majumder, the lawyer who sent the refuting letter to the media recently on behalf of National Bank, said he does not have any knowledge about the air ambulance.
Dhaka Tribune got hold of two video clips and some photographs yesterday that showed two persons on hospital beds with life support gears. The location of the hospital could not be verified.
No officials of Sikder Group were available for confirmation and comments.