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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Rana hauled back to face the anger

Update : 29 Apr 2013, 05:09 AM

Sohel Rana, the owner of the collapsed Rana Plaza, was arrested in Benapole, Jessore, as he attempted to flee the country.

Confirming the news, State Minister for Local Government and Rural Development (LGRD) Jahangir Kabir Nanak told the Dhaka Tribune that a team of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) captured Rana at around 3pm. Rana was later flown to Dhaka by helicopter.

Nanak made the announcement in Savar as tension was rising high after the army rescue team declared the commencement of a debris removal operation five days after the building collapsed, with relatives of the missing still hopeful of finding loved ones.

“He [Rana] tried to flee the country through the Benapole border. He is being brought back to Dhaka,” Nanak told reporters in Savar yesterday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Detective Branch of police arrested Mohammad Anisur Rahman, chairman of Ether Tex Ltd housed in Rana Plaza, in Ramna area in the city yesterday evening.

Dhaka Superintendent of Police Habibur Rahman confirmed his arrest.

Rana Plaza, which housed five RMG factories, a branch of Brac Bank and a shopping complex, caved in on Wednesday, trapping several thousand people under the rubble. Over 375 people were reported to have died as of Sunday evening.

Rana had persuaded the tenants of the building to operate normally, defying a warning issued by local municipality engineers after cracks had developed on the pillars of the building.

Rana was reportedly inside the building at the time of collapse, holding an anti-shutdown rally. Local MP Talukdar Md Touhid Murad Jang’s men allegedly rescued him from the wreckage and aided his escape.

Rana had since been on the run.

Following Nanak’s confirmation of Rana’s arrest yesterday afternoon, relatives of the victims and volunteers took to the streets, demanding the death penalty for Rana.

THE MANHUNT

RAB and police conducted joint and separate operations in different districts, including the capital, Manikganj, Khulna, Jessore and neighbouring districts, to detain the owner of Rana Plaza. A RAB team finally arrested him in a house adjacent to Benapole Bazar football field yesterday afternoon.

Rana, senior joint convener of the Savar unit of the Jubo League, the youth wing of the ruling Awami League, was flown to the Tejgaon Airport in Dhaka at around 5pm in a RAB helicopter before before being transported to RAB headquarters in Uttara.

Briefing reporters, RAB Director General Mokhlesur Rahman said a RAB team from Dhaka had flown to Benapole on a tip off that Rana might attempt to flee to India through the Benapole border crossing. They were able to track and capture him before he was bale to cross the border.

The RAB boss said they captured Rana in the house of a person named Shah Alam Mithu who was arrested along with others who sheltered him.

Mokhlesur said the Rana Plaza owner hid at different places, including three districts, at different times following the building collapse and changed his location frequently.

The RAB DG said all possible legal avenues would be used against Rana. A case under the Narcotics Control Act will be filed against him as Phensidyle, a banned cough syrup, was found in his possession at the time of arrest.

After escaping from Savar, Rana came to Dhaka and spent Wednesday night in the house of his friend Shamim, in Mohammadpur, the DG said, also mentioning that he then went to Manikganj and stayed there for two nights at the residence of another friend named Afzal Hossain.

Later, Rana went to Faridpur to take shelter at the house of an associate named Anil, who took Rana to Mithu’s house in Benapole on Sunday morning, the DG said.

RAB also arrested Anil for assisting Rana’s escape, Mokhles added.

Asked if any influential people helped Rana escape, the RAB DG said if influential people had helped Rana, he would not have run from one place to another.

Rana will be shown arrested in the two cases already filed against him with Savar Model police station: one filed by Sub-Inspector Wali Ashraf Khan under the Penal Code against six people for irresponsibly leading people to their death; another filed by Rajuk official Mohammad Helal Ahmed under the Building Construction Act 1952 for not maintaining the Bangladesh National Building code.

The other accused in the first case are Rana’s father Mohammad Abdul Khaleq Bepari, 65, Mohammad Aminul Islam, owner and director of New Wave Bottoms, David Mayor Reko, managing director of Phantom Apparel, Anisuzzaman, MD of Phantom TAC Ltd, and Bazlus Samad, owner of New Wave Style. According to the case record, SI Ashraf demanded Tk35m in damages for the victims of the building collapse.

Police had already arrested three owners of the garment factories and two engineers of Savar Municipality in connection with the cases. Two other owners of the garment factories are still at large.

The law enforcers had also detained Rana’s spouse, a cousin and a staff member for interrogation.

THE MISDEEDS

Rana built the eight-storey building on a pond after allegedly taking over its possession from its Hindu owner and then filling the pond up with sand. He flouted construction regulations and used substandard building materials.

Rana was reportedly general secretary of the local Jubo League, the youth wing of the Awami League.

He is widely known as loyal to Savar lawmaker Touhid Murad Jang from whom he allegedly enjoyed protection for all his activities and misdeeds.

Rana’s father Abdul Khalek moved to Savar in 1980 and started working at Yeasin Oil Mills. Things changed after 1996 when the AL took office and Rana managed to grab a valuable piece of land owned by a Hindu beside the highway and started off Rana Oil Mills.

He has now become a multi-millionaire and managed to add shopping malls, residential and commercial buildings, and brickfields to his property. There are numerous allegations of arms dealing, drug peddling, land grabbing, kidnapping, and murder against him.

“No one can protest his misdeeds. There are many allegations against him…the basement of Rana Plaza was a hub for selling Phensidyle,” Ashrafuddin Khan Imu, a former local MP and Awami League leader, told journalists earlier.

A Jubo League leader, seeking anonymity, said: “Rana is popular among senior Awami League leaders as he can gather a lot of supporters for any political programme.” He said most young “drug addicts” of Savar are Rana’s followers.

Rana was thrown in jail when the BNP-led four-party alliance assumed office in 2001. His father Abdul Khalek joined the BNP and got his son released. Khalek in February last year left the BNP and joined Awami League. He has also been in hiding since the collapse.

Rana also grabbed an acre of land from former Savar College student’s union vice-president Mohammad Helal, who had gone missing before the land was grabbed. Local people alleged that Rana abducted him.

Rana and his family live in Rana Tower, a six-storey building constructed on that land. He also owns three houses on Bazar Road, which he allegedly bought over the past five years. He built a brickfield in Dhamrai two years ago and named it after his father.

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