A Libyan broker promised lucrative job opportunities in Italy and later handed over to the Libyan Mafia for Tk4.5 lakh each
Omar Sheikh, a resident of Gopalgonj district, believed that going abroad was only the way to earn enough money to improve the lives of his family members. He sold a piece of land and took a loan from an NGO, before giving Tk4.5 lakh to local broker Liakot to arrange work overseas.
However, the promise of a better livelihood turned into a nightmare. Instead of going to Italy on May 27, 22-year-old Omar was beaten and tortured by Libyan human traffickers who have demanded Tk12 lakh in ransom from his family, according to Omar’s older brother Zamal Sheikh.
Liakot had taken payment from Omar on January 20. Subsequently, Liakot introduced Omar to another alleged broker named Julhas.
Julhas and two traffickers named Amir Ali and Abdullah sent Omar through their trafficking channel to Benghazi in Libya, located on the Gulf of Sidra in the Mediterranean. Omar was supposed to be taken to the Libyan capital and chief port Tripoli.
Omar could not find a stable job in Benghazi, and a Libyan broker promised him lucrative job opportunities in Italy. However, the broker then handed over Omar and others he had promised to take to Italy to the Libyan Mafia for Tk4.5 lakh each, said Zamal.
“The mafia has demanded Tk12 lakh in ransom. Their legs have been broken and it is not possible to save them without money. A Bengali member of the mafia who lives in Libya called and informed us over the phone,” he added.
“We told them we were unable to pay and pleaded to them to release my brother, but they did not listen and beat my brother for two weeks. They threatened to kill him on May 27,” Omar’s brother further said, mentioning that original broker Liakot was also involved with the mafia and had told them about the ransom as well.
Zamal claimed two other relatives, Samad Mulla and Mahbub Sheikh, were also stuck in Benghazi, but this reporter could not find their names on a list provided by the Foreign Ministry on May 29.
He said no government representatives had contacted him, and demanded his brother and other relatives be brought back.
Zamal also claimed OC Mamun of the Mokchedpur police station visited his house and took their statement. Broker Liakot, who is also a member of the Ragdhi union under Muksudpur Upazila in Goplagonj district, had fled the village.
Another victim, Shohag Ahmed, lives in Moutuli, Sakhipur, Bhairab under the Kishoreganj district.
The victim's cousin Zamaet Ullah said Shohag went to Libya ahead of Ramadan last year.
Local broker Jobor Ali, who is a travel agent, helped him to go to Libya. He took Tk5 lakh from Shohag, who needed one and a half months to reach Libya. Shohag also sold his land to manage the money, like Omar Sheikh.
The broker arranged a job for Shohag at a retail store, but Shohag wished to change to a different job after a while as he was not earning enough. He got an offer to go to Tripoli from a Bengali broker named Tanziur Rahman, and was kidnapped by the mafia on May 14.
On May 27 at 10.47pm, the victim sent a voice message via Taziur to his family in Bangladesh. The message said to inform his father and that he was going to die.
“The broker had handed him over to the Libyan Mafia. They beat and tortured him. He was weeping and said they (the mafia) had killed many people and would kill him to,” said the victim’s cousin.
Md Miran, another cousin of the victim, said Shohag’s father had accepted the ransom of Tk10 lakh and pleaded for his son to be saved.
He added that they had tried to contact the government hotline number, but did not get a response.