Not paying extortion money led to harassment since 2016, Russell claimed
The events unfolded like scenes from an action movie.
The following night, his wife Farah Russell, 40, and son Anab Aziz, 17, were picked up from their Gulshan residence by Narayanganj district police and were also taken to Narayanganj.
Although the two incidents took place in different spots in different time, former Narayanganj superintendent of police (SP) Harun-Ur-Rashid, at a press conference on November 2, claimed that police recovered bullets and liquor from the SUV early Saturday and detained three people, Farah, Anaf, and their driver, Sumon.
But the story took a U-turn after the footage from Gulshan residence of Russell, son of Partex Group chairman MA Hashem and president of Gulshan Club, was released a day after the press conference, reports Bangla Tribune.
Following the incident, the former Narayanganj SP Harun was removed from the district police and was transferred to Bangladesh Police Headquarters with immediate effect on November 3.
Former Narayanganj SP Harun on November 2, at a press conference, claimed, detective branch officials stopped the SUV in the Signboard area of Siddhirganj around 2:45am on Saturday and seized 28 bullets, 1,200 yaba pills, 24 bottles of foreign liquor, 28 cans of beer, and Tk22,380 in cash from the car.
He also claimed that they detained Russell's driver, wife and son from the car for interrogation, but released the family members keeping the driver in custody. Two cases under Arms and Narcotics Control Acts were filed with Siddhirganj police station against Russell and his driver.
Later, in a press release, Narayanganj police claimed they detained the driver, Russell’s wife Farah Russell and son from the SUV after finding bullets, alcohol, and drugs from Russell's SUV after chasing the vehicle down in Narayanganj from Dhaka.
Russell fled the scene after pulling a gun on policemen during an altercation amid traffic congestion in Dhaka’s Tejgaon in early hours of Saturday, they claimed.
But the CCTV footage of Russell's Gulshan house showed his wife and son were picked up by law enforcement, some in plain clothes, in the early hours of November 2 (Saturday).
Officials confirmed that Gulshan police station was not informed by Narayanganj police before Russell’s family members were picked up on the day.
This action led to immediate action against the Narayanganj SP.
Meanwhile, the High Court on Monday granted anticipatory bail to Russell in two cases filed against him until the police submit probe reports for the cases.
A drama staged for rejecting extortion?
Following his release, Russell blamed SP Harun behind the drama claiming that the police officer was angry since Russell did not comply with his demand for extortion.
“He [Harun] is basically in need of cash. He can do anything for money. He has been demanding money since 2016 and harassing me and my employees,” Russell claimed.
Russell said SP Harun demanded Tk8 crore from him as the company was planning to launch a paper mill at Rupganj in Narayanganj. “Our project is on hold due to this. If we do not pay up, he will not allow us to continue with the project.”
“We do not allow extortion, and we will deal with the cases legally,” he said.
Regarding picking up his SUV and family members, Russell said SP Harun staged a drama of drugs and arms recovery from his SUV which is completely false and it has been proven by the CCTV footage.
“My SUV and family members were picked up illegally from two places to trap me. The car was taken around 1am when SP Harun himself went to the Dhaka Club premises, but the club president did not allow him to enter. He came to my house as well," he said.
He also claimed that his laptop, iPad, four mobile phones, all of which were in the SUV, were not shown in the seizure list, but police showed alcohol in his car as a seizure to trap him.
The former Narayanganj SP Harun, despite conducting two raids in Dhaka, did not notify Dhaka's police officials although it is mandatory for any district police to notify police station concerned if they conduct any drive or detain anyone from Dhaka Metropolitan areas.
But the Narayanganj police did not inform anything to Gulshan police despite conducting a drive at Russell's house in Gulshan.
Gulshan police station OC SM Kamruzzaman told Dhaka Tribune they have no knowledge about Narayanganj police conducting any drives in Dhaka’s Gulshan on the day.
SP Harun takes U-Turn
Former Narayanganj SP Harun-Ur-Rashid, on Monday, told Bangla Tribune that police went to arrest Russell in his house in Gulshan, who is accused in two cases of narcotics and arms, but he was not available there.
“We found his son. When we asked him about his father, he said he did not have any information. When police told him to come with them for interrogation, Russell's wife wanted to come too. Later they were released after interrogation,” he claimed.
Regarding the recovery of bullets and drugs, Harun said the driver of the SUV claimed to police that it belongs to the owner of the vehicle.
He also claimed that they were in search of the SUV as Russell pulled a gun at a constable stepping out of the car.
Tk5 crore extortion allegation against SP Harun not resolved yet
The latest one is not the first case of extortion charges against SP Harun.
Earlier on May 3, 2016, a sub-inspector Azharul Islam, on behalf of SP Harun, called Amber Denim store manager Yahia Babu and demanded Tk5 crore in extortion, according to a complaint letter Showkat Aziz Russell filed on May 5.
With the written complaint to the president's office, the prime minister's office, Cabinet division, home ministry, different government offices and the chairman of different business organizations, Russell claimed the SP also threatened to arrest and harass Amber Group employees and destroy the companies if the demand was not met.
When he was the SP of Gazipur, Harun also arrested four staff members of the Amber Denim Factory in false cases as the demand for Tk5 crore extortion was not entertained, Russell claimed on Monday.
Despite an investigation that was launched on the allegation in 2016, it, however, stopped because of the SP's influence, Russell alleged.
Will there be an investigation now?
Officials at police headquarters said they are still undecided if an investigation will be launched or not against the SP.
"No probe committee has been formed in this regard yet," Md Sohel Rana, assistant inspector general (AIG) at the police headquarters said.
However, officials at both home ministry and police headquarters said a probe committee can be formed upon return of Inspector General of Police Dr. Md Javed Patwary from a tour abroad.
Dhaka Tribune phoned former Narayanganj SP Harun and Showkat Aziz Russell for comments but to no avail.