Sharif Miah, a Bangladeshi businessman in South Africa, was kidnapped from the streets of Pretoria on June 10.
The next day, Sharif's family in Bangladesh received a phone call from South Africa. A man who spoke in Bangla said the family would have to pay Tk20 lakh if they wanted Sharif back alive.
Sharif, the owner of a super shop in Pretoria, has been living there for eight years.
Seeing no other way, the family members negotiated over phone and agreed to pay the money in instalments. Initially they sent Tk55,000 to an associate of the kidnappers through a mobile money transfer service.
The kidnapper then instructed them to go to Gulistan with Tk7 lakh and handed it over to his associates.
On June 13, Sharif's brother Zaman Miah and a cousin arrived at Gulistan with the money, but the kidnappers told Zaman to come alone to Keraniganj. Zaman took his cousin anyway.
Three men were waiting there to receive the ransom. They made a phone call to South Africa after they took the money, and Zaman talked with his brother Sharif on that phone.
“They have just let me go,” Sharif told his brother.
When Zaman returned from the spot he tried calling his brother, but he did not pick up the phone. His mobile phone has remained switched off since then.
It was at this point that the family decided to go to the authorities.
Based on their complaint, police have already arrested two members of the gang from Keraniganj.
The arrested gang members are Altab Hossain and Nadim. SI Nazmul Hossain of Kaliganj police station, who is investigating the case, said the arrestees had confessed to collecting the ransom. Police have recovered Tk5 lakh from them.
From them, police have gleaned the identity of one of their associates in Pretoria. His name is Akhter Hossain and he is from Keraniganj.
Police have interrogated Akhter's mother.
Pretoria police have already arrested a man named Russel, the investigating officer said.
Warisur Rahman, second secretary to the Bangladesh High Commission in Pretoria, told the Dhaka Tribune that the local authorities were investigating the kidnapping.
The commission is in contact with the South Africa Department of International Relations and Cooperation and is closely monitoring the situation, he said.
A kidnapping spree
In South Africa, and in Pretoria in particular, the kidnapping of businessmen by international gangs is on the rise.
The abductions of Pretoria businessman Omar Carrim, 76, and Cape Town businessman Zhaun Ahmed, 71, are among the two high-profile cases that took place this month.
A Pretoria private investigator named Shaheen Suleiman who is looking into these cases told the South African newspaper Mail and Guardian that he has seen many similar kidnappings, usually involving countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Police here say several criminal groups are involved in the abduction of Bangladeshi nationals abroad.
“Not only in South Africa, the kidnapping gangs are also active in Iran, Iraq and Dubai, Libya, Nigeria, and some other countries,” an official said.
Dhaka has started joint investigation with related countries to bust the gangs, officials said.
Additional Deputy Inspector General Rawshan Ara, who is with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), told the Dhaka Tribune: “We have evidence about involvement of Bangladeshi people in these abductions that take place abroad.
“We have arrested kidnapping gang members from Iran, Libya and Nigeria recently,” she said.