Where and how the vehicles are extorted in Dhaka

A certain Liton Bepari was driving a pickup van from Gulistan to Shyambazar around 3:00 am on 16 March. When he reached near Suritola Model Government Primary School, some individuals stood in front of his vehicle with sticks and collected Tk 500 from him by force.

The extortionists were collecting the same amount from other vehicles too. But they could not continue it as some drivers started shouting against the extortion, prompting the police to intervene and arrest five of the extortionists from the spot.

Liton Bepari filed a case over the incident of extortion with the Bongshal police station, said its officer-in-charge (OC) Mainul Islam. 

Collecting extortion from moving vehicles is a common practice in other parts of the capital too. At least 14 cases were registered at various police stations, including Jatrabari, Kotwali, Mohammadpur, Tejgaon, Sutrapur, Badda, Darus Salam, and New Market, during the last two months, February and March, while the police arrested 58 people in total in these connections.

It was learned through case documents and conversations with the police officials that the incidents of extortion took place in Dholaipar, Babubazar, Badamtali, Karwan Bazar, Bosila, Satarkul, Bangla Bazar, Gausia Market, and Mazar Road areas.

The police seized a large number of sticks from the extortionists and filed multiple cases during the last two months, said Mahfuzur Rahman, officer-in-charge (OC) of Kotwali police station. 

KN Roy Niyati, additional deputy commissioner (media and public relations) of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told Prothom Alo that the police take legal actions whenever they are reported about any criminal offenses, including extortion. They will investigate the extortion cases and submit their reports to the court. 

Extortion by threats 

A group of people were collecting 'tolls' from the covered vans, pickups, CNG-run auto-rickshaws that were passing through the passage beneath the Babu Bazar bridge around 4:55 pm on 16 March. 

A police team went there and arrested three of the extortionists, while the others managed to flee. Later, sub-inspector (SI) Mohammad Mojammel Hossain of Kotwali police station filed an extortion case. 

Jashim Uddin, a shopkeeper of the area who witnessed the incident, said some people have long been extorting from the moving vehicles in the Babu Bazar area. They pass various threats if the drivers refuse to pay the amounts. 

The police detained another three people, including certain Saiful, on 16 March, when they were collecting toll from the Badamtali area under the Kotwali police station. They were sued in an extortion case later, said SI Obaidur Rahman. 

Another – Mehedi Hasan – was caught red-handed while collecting tolls from vehicles in front of the Baptist Church in the capital’s Bangla Bazar area on 30 March. The police filed a case over the incident. 

Extortion at Dolaipar

Two people – Saiful and Amir Shikder – were detained while collecting tolls from moving vehicles in the capital’s Dolaipar area on 7 April. The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) filed an extortion case against them.

Md Ramjan, who runs a tea-stall in the area, said some miscreants have long been extorting vehicles at Dolaipar. Their activities decrease following raids of law enforcement agencies and resume after a few days. 

RAB detained 10 people while collecting extortion from trucks, covered vans, and lorry drivers in front of the Nirapad Transport and Parcel Service at Dolaipar around 9:30 pm on 20 February. In a separate incident, they nabbed 10 others from the Bonoful outlet area in the afternoon. The RAB-10 filed two cases over the incidents.

Apart from these, similar incidents of collecting tolls from vehicles have been found in Gulistan, Bosila, Karwan Bazar, Badda, New Market, and Darus Salam areas.

Iftekharuzzaman, the executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, believes that extortion cannot be eradicated only by arresting field-level extortionists.

He told Prothom Alo that an organised gang is openly involved in rampant extortion in the capital. It may reduce if extortionists of all levels are arrested and brought to justice, under a high-level decision of the government.