The man has been on the run ever since RAB raided the Uttara and Mirpur branches of Regent Hospital on July 6
Employees of different organisations under Mohammad Shahed, the absconding owner and chairman of Regent Hospital, lived in fear as they were subjected to frequent physical assaults and threatened with fake lawsuits if they wanted to quit.
“Now as I am currently positioned as the Prime Minister’s APS [assistant press secretary], do you think you will be able to hold a grudge against me, brother?” the Regent Hospital chairman said over the phone while threatening Arifur Rahman Sohag, who worked as a staff reporter in 2017 for Daily Onno Diganta newspaper owned by Shahed.
“As I hold a position, and if I press four cases against you with four police stations in Dhaka, would it be alright for you?” he told Sohag, according to an audio call recording which Dhaka Tribune could not verify independently.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, Sohag said he became a victim of abuse and torture after being assigned to take care of Shahed’s personal affairs along with all PR (public relations) activities for the hospital and other enterprises under Shahed.
“After joining there [as a reporter], I was tasked additionally as the PR officer. I had to promote Dhaka Central College, Regent Hospital Limited, and their health service on Facebook. I was also forced to take care of his personal affairs, including guarding his wife whenever she went shopping,” he said.
Sohag was given a separate room at the newspaper office, located at the building of Regent hospital at Uttara’s Sector 11, where he witnessed Shahed’s various unscrupulous activities.
Shahed has been on the run ever since the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) raided the Uttara and Mirpur branches of the hospital on July 6 on allegations of issuing fake Covid-19 certificates, as well as charging exorbitant fees for Covid-19 testing and treatment of patients.
The former employee said people, especially political figures from Narayanganj, Rupganj, Gazipur areas, used to come to meet Shahed at his office to settle various “issues” and even owed him money for “getting the work done.”
“People would offer him money to get their work done. He [Shahed] used to tell them that he had good relations with ministers and can get the work done if paid accordingly,” Sohag said.
However, Shahed was not at all welcoming when it came to his creditors or employees.
“Shahed used to harass his creditors, when they came to collect their money, at his office with his own gunman. He even at times assaulted them [creditors]. If any staff ever made a mistake, he used to beat them with his belt.”
No one was allowed to resign
When Sohag first told Shahed that he wished to resign, he was sent to Uttara west police station by Shahed in the name of some work.
“The then Inspector (investigation) Abdur Razzak made me stay at the police station for hours until 1am and then advised me to ‘maintain a good relation with sir [Shahed]’,” he said.
Contacted, the police official refuted the claim and said he was never involved in the issue.
“This is not true. I personally knew him [Sohag] and he would introduce himself as a journalist. A girl, probably his wife, made an allegation against him with police. I saw him at the police station, but I never handled the issue.”
Later, when Sohag submitted his resignation letter, Shahed reportedly used Halishahar police to send a team to Sohag’s ancestral home and harass his parents in Chittagong.
Finding no other way out, Sohag left the country for Malaysia on August 4, 2017.
“He knocked me on Messenger and told me that he will not spare me,” said Sohag.
Four days later, he learnt that Shahed lodged a case against him over embezzling Tk20 lakh.
“I came to know that the police went to my house. Then, I called Shahed and he told me ‘if someone betrays me, he will be left begging on the road or spend the rest of his life in jail’,” he said.
However, he later went to Brunei, came back to Malaysia, and later returned to Bangladesh.
“I thought why should I be on run, [as] I am not a criminal? I came and surrendered before the magistrate,” said the victim.
“The magistrate knew that there were some eight to nine cases against Shahed with the same court at that time, and granted me bail.
“I have already spent Tk7 lakh in defending myself in the case, but the court could not bring him there,” he sighed.
Shahed also filed a case against Sohag in Manikganj under the Explosive Substances Act, where Sohag claims he never went. Sohag managed to get the case dismissed.
Employees getting assaulted
Sohag claimed that he also witnessed other employees being tortured by Shahed.
“Ashikur Rahman Shohag was manager of Regent Hospital. He was assaulted whenever he mentioned leaving the job,” he said.
“There was another staff member named Idris. He was beaten with a belt by Shahed as he did not want to work,” Sohag added.
Police: Shahed tried to influence us
Ali Hossain Khan, the then officer-in-charge [OC] of Uttara West Police Station, told Dhaka Tribune, “I know him personally. He would try to influence us, but I always avoided him.”
Khan, however, did not want to reveal how Shahed tried to influence police.
“The people who worked with him were desperate as well,” he added.
Meanwhile, Abdur Razzak, the then inspector [investigation] of Uttara West Police Station, said nine to 10 cases were filed against Shahed with the police station since 2014.
“During my time, there was a case against him over a recruitment circular in a newspaper.”
Besides, he owed money to multiple people, added the police official.