Human trafficking: 27 cricketers go to play in Malaysia, only two return

Ziaul Alam Roni identified himself as the manager of the Heritage Cricketers club while passing through a rigorous immigration check at Dhaka airport on 15 January.

He told the officials that he was leading a group of 27 players to Malaysia for a cricket tournament.

But only two, including Ziaul, returned home two and a half months after the scheduled date.

The police suspect that Ziaul has used the tournament as a cover for human trafficking.

During the immigration check, Ziaul provided a written commitment, saying that all members would return on 30 January after completing the tournament. None but Ziaul and one other returned home till the date.

The police detained Ziaul upon his arrival on 25 April. Later, he was sued in a case filed with the airport police station.

According to Ziaul's commitment made during immigration, they were invited by the Perak Cricket Association in Malaysia for a tournament scheduled from 16 to 22 January. They were scheduled to return home on 30 January.

In police custody, Ziaul claimed to be unaware of the whereabouts of the missing team members during interrogation.

The Heritage Cricketers club, which is located in Uttara, Dhaka, could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts. Ziaul is from Hathazari in Chattogram while the other returnee, Palash Hossain, is from Mirpur of Dhaka.

Shafiqul Islam, officer-in-charge of the airport police station, said Ziaul was arrested based on specific allegations of human trafficking to Malaysia. The police are now trying to locate the other members involved in the trafficking ring.

Sub-Inspector Enayet Ullah of the immigration police said Ziaul had promised to bring all the players. But he, along with Palash and others, actually trafficked the individuals on the pretext of a cricket tournament, to make extra profits.

Ziaul Alam has denied the allegations of involvement in human trafficking and claimed in court that he was not engaged in any criminal activities.

The names of the 25 missing persons have been submitted to the chief metropolitan magistrate (CMM) court of Dhaka.

The investigation officer of the case, Ahsan Ullah, said it was learnt that Ziaul once worked as a pilot. A letter has been sent to the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), seeking information about the Heritage Cricketers club. Things will be clear after getting a reply from the BCB.

Former inspector general of police, Nurul Huda, believes that the immigration officials had something more to do before clearing their files.

“When an unfamous cricket club informed them about its participation in an international tournament, the immigration police should have contacted the BCB to verify the authenticity of the claims. It should have been scrutinized more thoroughly,” he added.

The former IGP also said the country’s image is being tarnished due to human trafficking on various pretexts. Officials and departments concerned should be more responsible while dealing with such issues.