Abu Salek remains in hiding
The prime accused, Abu Salek—in a graft case for which Jahalam was imprisoned—has been in hiding since last year.
Abu Salek is the son Abdul Kuddus from Singiya village of Balia union under Thakurgaon's sadar upazila. He has kept in contact with no one, even his own family; meanwhile his father said he wanted a trial to be held for his son.
Salek has a huge new tin-shed house lying vacant in his absence, locked from the inside.
Salek is third of four siblings, and he recently moved to Ranisankail upazila after his second marriage and became quite successful. He was separated from his first wife after a year of marriage as she did not get along with his parents.
Salek's father, Abdul Kuddus, said Salek went to Dhaka after being scolded by his father following his SSC result. He did not communicate with his family then either.
Salek told them he was involved with the making of National ID cards in Dhaka, his father added.
Abdul Kader and Shah Alam of the same village said Salek came into possession of his wealth quite suddenly and built a beautiful house in the village,
However, he did not bestow his wealth—that he accumulated due to bank fraud—on the village, but instead established a showroom for televisions and bought properties in Panchagarh's Boda upazila, where his sister lives.
Salek's father demands that his son be punished for this crime. He said Salek has never handed him his embezzled money, but instead, bought properties in Panchagarh.
He claims that their village house was not built using Salek's money. He built his house and runs his family from the money he earns from the arable 3.21 hectare (20 bigha) ancestral land he inherited from his father.
Locals of Singiya village also demand Salek be punished after seeing the news of Jahalam's wrongful incarceration by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). Balia Union Parishad Chairman Nur E Alam Siddique Mukti said: "There have been complaints against Salek for big and small crimes. I believe there is some truth behind the accusation against him."
If the allegation is proven, then the court will be definitely bring him to justice, he added.
Jahalam's imprisonment for being mistaken as Salek
A worker of Bangladesh Jute Mills in Narsingdi’s Ghorashal, Jahalam, was arrested in 2016 after he was mistaken for Abu Salek; who was originally accused in 33 cases filed over loan fraud and embezzlement of Tk18.5 crore from Sonali Bank Limited.
Although Jahalam's village address was nowhere to be found in Abu Salek's 10 bank accounts, they mentioned the name of a village next to Jahalam's village, which turned out be the cause of his misfortune.
According to media reports, the ACC in 2014 prosecuted Salek in these cases.
However, officials of the corruption watchdog,bank, and police had mistakenly identified Jahalam as Salek, which led to the jute mill worker’s arrest in 2016 while Jahalam’s claims of innocence fell on deaf ears.
Jahalam was arrested on February 6, 2016, after he was mistaken for Abu Salek, who was the original accused in 33 cases that ACC had filed in 2014 over loan fraud and the embezzlement of Tk18.5 crore from Sonali Bank Limited.
When the ACC sent for Salek, the summons went to Jahalam, who in turn met with officials of the corruption watchdog and insisted that he was not Salek.
He also told the ACC that the photo used to open the Sonali Bank account was not his either.
However, the bank’s officials still identified him as Salek, and the jute mill worker was eventually arrested in Ghorashal following commission’s green light.
On May 27 of the same year, he was transferred to Dhaka Central Jail 2.
Despite appearing in front of the court many times since, Jahalam did not receive bail. Identifying Jahalam as Salek in 26 of the 33 cases, the ACC submitted charge-sheets, and the cases started being processed in court.
Last year, several media reports brought the matter of Jahalam's innocence to the ACC's attention, after which ACC investigated the matter further.
Upon further investigation, the ACC found Jahalam's claims of innocence to be true.
On February 3, after a legal process, the High Court passed a ruling over the illegality of his imprisonment and directed the jail authorities to immediately release Jahalam. He was freed after three long years.