Benazir Ahmed’s statement comes after RAB arrests three men who have been allegedly instigating violence ahead of the polls
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) Director General (DG) Benazir Ahmed has said that huge amount of cash is being sent from Dubai to Bangladesh to influence the 11th general election.
His remarks came at a press briefing in Dhaka on Tuesday afternoon, after drives that ended with the arrest of three men and seizure of Tk8 crore in cash and Tk10 crore in cheques.
He claimed that the trio was involved in “instigating violence by distributing illegal money” ahead of the polls, scheduled to be held across the country on Sunday.
Conducted based on a tip-off, the elite force’s raid had started on Monday afternoon and ended on Tuesday morning – during which Rab swept through the office of export-import and contractor firm United Corporation on the 27th floor of City Centre, situated in the capital’s Motijheel, and Amena Enterprise at Gulshan.
Benazir added that they also recovered a number of vouchers, several types of receipts, slips and cash books which showed where the money went and who received them.
At the press briefing held at United Corporation, he said the documents they have recovered during the raid showed that some Tk150 crore have already been disbursed from that office.
RAB identified the arrestees as Amena Enterprise General Manager Joynal Abedin and office assistant Alamgir Hossain, and Ali Haider, managing director of United Corporation.
One of them also used to work at Hawa Bhaban, the former political office of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia at Banani which was the centre of power during the BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami government.
The owner of United Corporation, Mahmudul Hasan, is an expatriate living in Dubai, and BNP’s candidate in Shariatpur 3 constituency Miah Nuruddin Ahmed Apu is the owner of Amena Enterprise.
RAB 3 Operation Officer Additional Superintendent of Police ABM Faizullah also told the Dhaka Tribune on Tuesday evening that a case was filed against the trio – under the Money Laundering Prevention Act and Anti-terrorism Act – at Motijheel police station.
Dubai and hundi
RAB DG Benazir said most of the money – disbursed before the raid and the seized amount – was sent from Dubai. “Some of the money was also collected from local sources. They later tried to deposit the money at local banks.”
Responding to a question, he said that Bangladesh Bank was unable to track the transactions of this huge amount of money as most of the transactions from Dubai were done via hundi, an informal and controversial fund transfer channel.
He said that they were yet to find out how much money has been sent to Bangladesh as United Corporation employees did not keep long term information regarding the money.
“We are still investigating this and further details will be made available later,” he added.
He said the money was to be used for influencing the election, instigating violence and deteriorating the country’s law and order situation.
The RAB DG’s remarks came at a time when recent Bangladesh counter intelligence investigations have found that BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami have been seeking help from Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to sway the results of the general election in their favour.
The ISI is maintaining communications with both parties through its Dubai-based operative Shahid Mehmood Md Sharif, said intelligence sources.
Ruling Awami League has also been alleging that acting BNP chief Tarique Rahman was conspiring from London with ISI to influence the election.
The Hawa Bhaban connection
Benazir Ahemd told reporters that Amena Enterprise's Joynal and Alamgir were deeply involved with the activities of Mahmudul Hasan’s United Corporation, which disbursed about Tk140 crore in the past two months around the country.
He claimed that the money was used for the benefit of a political party. “They were trying to buy votes with this money. Pre-election violence has also occurred in all the constituencies wherever United Corporation sent money.”
He also said that one of the three they arrested used to work at Hawa Bhaban, from where Tarique used to dictate BNP’s organizational activities. But the RAB DG denied disclosing that person’s name.
However, another RAB official, seeking anonymity, told the Dhaka Tribune that the person in question was Amena Enterprise GM Joynal.
The official said that RAB raided United Corporation at first, and arrested Haider and seized Tk8 crore in cash and Tk10 crore in cheque.
After finding an election campaign poster of BNP Shariatpur 3 (Damudya-Vedarganj-Gosairhat) candidate Apu, who was a former assistant personal secretary of Tarique, in that office, RAB raided Amena Enterprise and arrested the other two, said the official.
Benazir said that some Tk3.60 crore was sent to Apu on Monday. “And we already know what happened there.”
His remarks hinted towards the clash that took place at Gosairhat on Monday, leaving Apu and several others injured.
Apu, who was hospitalized later, had alleged that Awami League men had attacked his campaign. But the ruling party claimed the clash was the result of a BNP internal feud.
RAB DG Benazir also said, during their drive at United Corporation, they also found a list with names, addresses and phone numbers of all the voters of a constituency.