Amir Hossain admitted to CID officials that he returned home with assistance from the Kuwait immigration department in exchange of a huge sum as bribe
Notorious human trafficker Siraj Uddin alias Amir Hossain, who was arrested in Bangladesh by Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in August, has been identified by Kuwaiti intelligence as an associate of Laxmipur lawmaker Mohammad Shahid Islam Papul.
CID officials said Kuwait intelligence confirmed that Papul made some 50 million dinars (Tk13,855,423,305) by sending more than 20,000 Bangladesh people as unskilled labour to the middle-eastern nation.
The Bangladeshi lawmaker, however, did not make use of any legal channel, such as Bangladesh-based manpower agencies, to send these labourers to Kuwait.
Kuwait intelligence also said that Papul, who has been playing the role of a godfather in the international human trafficking syndicate, had been collecting forged visas with help from his counterpart traffickers in Kuwaiti. Then, victims from Bangladesh were trafficked into the nation using the forged visas by several of Papul’s associates, including Amir Hossain.
More than 900 Bangladeshis were trafficked to Kuwait by gang leader Amir over a long period of time, a CID official related to the case told Dhaka Tribune.
The Kuwaiti government also informed Bangladesh that three notorious traffickers, including Amir Hossain, had fled Kuwait for Bangladesh. The CID is looking for the other two traffickers.
On August 6, a CID team arrested Siraj Uddin alias Amir Hossain from his village home in Madhabdi upazila of Narsingdi.
CID Special Superintendent Syeda Zannat Ara told Dhaka Tribune that the syndicate run by Amir Hossain used to gather people wishing to go abroad for work from various districts and took Tk6 lakh or more by luring them with promises of high-paid jobs in Kuwait.
''After arriving in Kuwait airport or a gang's tent, the trafficked Bangladeshis realized that the promise of good jobs and high salaries had all been lies and then they were forced to live on the streets with no money or food,” she said.
“Many victims are now passing a life of hardship in Kuwait after falling prey to this trafficking ring. We have been receiving different allegations from the victims and their families,” she added.
Syeda Zannat Ara also expressed hope that law enforcement will be able to take legal action against these traffickers after tracing their whereabouts.
“That's how victims will be able to get their compensation, justice and finally the route of human trafficking would be stopped,” she added.
According to Arab media, once upon a time Mohammad Shahid Islam Papul used to work as a supervisor at a prominent cleaning contractor company working for the Kuwait government. He later became a partner of the company.
He soon became involved with trafficking people into Kuwait from Bangladesh in the shadows of his cleaning service business. Some Kuwaiti high officials were also found to have been involved with Papul in managing travel visas for his victims.
On 6 June, Kuwaiti police arrested Papul on charges of human trafficking, money laundering, and exploiting his compatriot workers after the country’s intelligence confirmed his links with the crimes and expressed concerns that he might try to launder huge sums of money to the United States.
CID Senior ASP Jishan Ul Haque said the three Bangladeshis, including Amir, among four human trafficking ring leaders arrested were sentenced to three years in prison by a Kuwaiti court. The three Bangladeshi convicts somehow managed to flee from the country and came back to Bangladesh.
How did Amir come back to Bangladesh?
Bangladesh CID officials said after his release from the prison, Amir Hossain and two other Bangladesh ring leaders went into hiding in Kuwait. Before the court verdict, Kuwaiti police had seized their passports and blacklisted them from travelling.
A Kuwaiti national, one of the four ring leaders, is currently in prison there. But, the three Bangladeshi rings escaped to Bangladesh by flight without passport or any legal travel papers.
Amir Hossain admitted to CID officials that he returned home with assistance from the Kuwait immigration department in exchange of a huge sum as bribe. He also revealed to police that when he had entered the Kuwait airport, CCTV cameras at the boarding bridge were intentionally turned off by his associates.
CID is also investigating how Amir Hossain and two others managed to exit Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka in a similar manner.
Bangladesh Embassy in Kuwait and political backing
On July 10, the UK-based media – Middle East Monitor — published an article saying: ''Details of human trafficking in Kuwait, which saw the arrest of an MP from Bangladesh, suggests that the scandal is not simply a case of one single rogue lawmaker. It now seems that Dhaka’s very own ambassador [SM Abul Kalam, Bangladesh ambassador to Kuwait] to the Gulf state is embroiled in criminal activity normally associated with the criminal underworld.”
The Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh terminated Kalam’s appointment at the embassy and appointed a new ambassador soon after the report.
Police sources said some local Awami League leaders and influential persons in Narsingdi had been trying to free Amir Hossain from CID custody soon after his arrest. Police suspect that efforts to free Amir was due to the fact that this human trafficking ring had provided financial assistance to them on various occasions and he was an active supporter of the ruling party in his village.
Amir and his assets
A local government public representative from Madhabdi under Narsingdi district said Siraj Uddin alias Amir Hossain went to Kuwait in 1998 as a worker with a forged passport. Later, he became involved with the international human trafficking ring.
Later, Amir trafficked hundreds of people to Kuwait from different districts of Bangladesh through MP Papul.
On September 3, a young man named Raihan Pradhan filed a case against Amir Hossain at Sreepur police station in Gazipur.
Raihan alleged that his cousin Sharif Pradhan went to Kuwait for Tk750,000 on an open visa. But Sharif was not given any job, not even valid documents for his stay.
Raihan also said hundreds of trafficked Bangladeshi like his cousin are now in hiding and living in inhumane conditions in Kuwait city.
Police discovered that Amir owns a six-storied apartment at Uttara in Dhaka, a three-storied building at Patchdona of Madhabdi, a textile mill and has huge investments in assets in various areas.