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Where do stolen CNG autorickshaws go?

  • Published at 12:20 am April 7th, 2018
  • Last updated at 06:04 pm April 7th, 2018
Where do stolen CNG autorickshaws go?
When 60-year-old autorickshaw driver Karim Ullah (not his real name) picked up a passenger from Uttara in Dhaka on the night of March 15, he did not expect the fare to cost him his CNG. The passenger seemed friendly enough, striking up a conversation with Karim and then casually offering him to stop for a cup of tea from a roadside stall. “There was no one except the guy at the stall,” Karim said. “I drank a cup of tea and started off again but within a few minutes, I felt sleepy and had to park the vehicle.’ Karim woke up to find himself on a hospital bed. “Ibrahim, another driver from my company, said he found me unconscious and brought me here,” he said. “There was no trace of my vehicle and I also lost my mobile phone. When I called my number, a man picked up the call and said he had my autorickshaw. “He said he would give it back for Tk70,000 and warned me not to involve the police. I wanted to go to police at first, then realized they would only waste my time. “I haggled with the thief down to Tk50,000, and he gave me a pick up spot.”
“Many of these thieves work in blue collar jobs during the day”
Another driver named Selim, 55, was similarly drugged on the Airport Road in mid-January and had his CNG-run three-wheeler stolen. Although he eventually got his vehicle back for Tk60,000, he also felt nothing could be gained from contacting the police. Police detectives say they have learned of more than 100 criminals involved in this business. “Many of these thieves work in blue collar jobs during the day,” Senior Assistant Commissioner Rahul Patwary of the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police said. “These thieves hail a CNG and manipulate the driver into stopping at a pre-arranged spot. Then they drug the drivers and take the CNG.” Detectives of DMP say there are 12-15 active gangs in the city doing these crimes, each with five to seven members. The thefts of CNGs do not always end peacefully, however. On January 14, police recovered the body of CNG driver Iskandar Hawlader from Manik Mia Avenue. Four muggers arrested in connection with his murder recently gave confessional statements before a Dhaka court. According to their statements and the DB’s investigation, the group splits into two at night and goes on a prowl to find autorickshaws. [caption id="attachment_161000" align="alignnone" width="870"] A driver of a CNG-run autorickshaw waits for passengers at the capital's Shahbagh intersection Rajib Dhar[/caption] The first unit has two or three members who hire the autorickshaws. The second group of three to four people meets them at predetermined spots, and helps with manhandling the drivers and taking away the vehicle. A few days after the theft, the thieves contact brokers or middlemen who negotiate the vehicle's return with the drivers and the owners. Elias, leader of the gang, and his lackeys Liton, Jashim and Anwar, confessed that they hired Iskandar from the Trade Fair venue at Agargaon. They stopped the vehicle at Farmgate saying they would be picking up a friend from there. Mintu offered Iskandar a cup of tea. He then used a slight of hand to mix a sedative with the tea. They took him into the CNG and dropped him on Manik Mia Avenue. Elias, who lived near Shah Ali Mazar in Mirpur, told police he had been doing this for three years. During the day he was a labourer. The ransom for the vehicle ranges from Tk50,000 to Tk80,000. The market price for a second-hand CNG autorickshaw can range from Tk5-7 lakh. DMP detectives have identified several gang leaders and found the names of the brokers who negotiate with the victims. Aside from Elias, DMP detectives have identified gang leaders Oli, Mujibur, Shamim, Jamal, Chhoto Jamal, Salim and Nazrul. A man named Faruk is the leader of the most prominent broker group, while two other groups led by Miraz and Awal are also notorious. The brokers get Tk15,000 to Tk20,000 for each settlement, said AC Rahul Patwary.

The godfather of autorickshaw thieves

[caption id="attachment_257547" align="alignleft" width="247"] The 'godfather' of CNG thieves in Dhaka, Kana Shohid. Courtesy: Dhaka Metropolitan Police[/caption]

Ten years ago, Shohid, who had been a CNG autorickshaw driver in Dhaka for almost eight years, lost his eye in an accident. He realized he was unemployable as a driver, but he decided to continue a career in autorickshaws anyway.

The man is now ‘Kana’ Shohid, the most notorious of CNG autorickshaw thieves in Dhaka. He has a case to his name with almost every police station in the city.

Police sources say Shohid owns several flats and a multi-storied building in the city. Every CNG thief in the city considers him a mentor and at least a 100 work for him. He also has lawyers or retainer who help him get bail from his frequent arrests.

Shohid now earns more than Tk30 lakh per month, said DB sources. He has divided the entire city into 10 zones, and his faithful associates lead each zone, collecting a share of the incomes of each gang of thieves that steal CNG autorickshaws.

According to police records, Md Shohid alias Kana Shahid, 48, is the pioneer of such gangs in Dhaka. The theft of over 2,000 autorickshaws is associated with his name.

Police officials said Shohid was arrested by the law enforcement agencies several times but he managed to come out on bail and again engaged with the crime.

“CNG drivers fall into this trap due to a lack of awareness,” DMP Additional Commissioner (DB) Devdas Bhattacharya said. “We are arresting the thieves on a regular basis but they get out on bail soon enough and get back to business.” DB officials have urged drivers to inform the police and the DB if they face such experience instead of settling with the thieves and brokers. AC Rahul said with the awareness growing around CNG autorickshaws, the thieves had taken to targeting easy bikes, the electric human haulers that operate in parts of the city. On March 26, an easy bike driver named Musa from Hazaribagh died from the effects of getting drugged at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
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