Extortion has been common in different parts of the capital
If someone wants to launch a business or construct a building, the person has to pay extortion money. If they fail to pay, they are attacked or beaten.
Md Parvez, shopkeeper at Ayesha Super Market at Mirpur Mazar Road, was beaten up on 8 January. In a written complaint to Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), Parvez alleged the criminals demanded Tk 200,000 as extortion money. As he couldn't pay the money, he was beaten up and his shop was vandalised.
A total of 14 incidents of extortion and attacks took place in the capital in the last seven months.
During the period, one person was killed and nine injured.
According to businessmen, persons involved in construction and the police, extortionists demand money if anyone starts a new business or does well in business. They also take advantage if they come to know about a dispute over business.
Moreover, if a businessman is innocent, the extortionists get a chance of extortion. If the construction of new buildings starts anywhere, extortionists appear. Sometimes, the building maker has to pay extortion money regularly. Sometimes, he has to pay at certain times.
Sources at the law enforcing agencies said extortion takes place at different places in the capital in the name of top terrors who are either in jail or on the run. The names of leaders and activists of the ruling party and its associate bodies are on the list of extortionists.
When asked about allegations of extortion with specific names, the Awami League leaders said organisational action will be taken. The police said they will take action if they receive complaints.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, DMP commissioner Habibur Rahman said zero tolerance has been taken up to stop extortion. He requested the city dwellers to send SMS about extortion, to send a 'message to commissioner' and also by WhatsApp. The numbers are 01320202020 and 01320101010.
The DMP commissioner said an instant solution will be given if complaints are sent to the numbers.
The police have taken action in some incidents. However, many victims said they are paying extortion money regularly. If the allegations are made, there are fears of assaults and attacks.
Negligible number of cases
According to DMP statistics, the number of extortion cases in Dhaka is not so many. A total of 22 cases were filed on charges of extortion in different police stations in the capital in 2021. The number of cases increased to 59 in the following year. As per statistics of cases, the higher number of extrotions takes place in Mirpur, Wari, Tejgaon and Lalbagh division under DMP.
DMP said seven cases of extortion have been recorded from January to June in 2023. Preferring not to be named, a high official at DMP said cases of extortion have not been recorded separately since June to December last year.
According to different police stations, hospitals and victims, a total of 14 incidents of extortion and attacks have been found since June last year. The incidents took place at Tejgaon industrial area, Darussalam, Rupnagar, Pallabi thana, Chand Udyan at Mohammadpur police station, Dhaka Udyan and Alu Bazar of Old Dhaka.
Some of the police officials said general people don't file cases in connection with snatching as well as the victims don't want to go to the police for the incidents of extortion. In some cases, the police stations remain reluctant to record cases. As a result, the real picture is not available.
On condition not to be named, a businessman in Mirpur said he pays Tk 500,000 every month as extortion money to run his business as well as for the security of his family. In the past one of his relatives was shot dead for refusing to extort money.
A youth named Sajib Hossain alias Farid, 28, was injured in a knife attack by extortionists in front of Nilkuthi Maternity Hospital at Darussalam in the capital's Mirpur at night on 7 October. He works in a private organisation named Nilkuthi Sky Network.
Speaking to Prothom Alo Sajib's friend Md Rana said the owners of Sky Network are Jahangir and Rubel. Swechchhasebok League leader Nabil Khan and his associates demand extortion from them. They assaulted Rubel demanding extortion several months ago.
Preferring not to be named a central leader of the Swechchhasebok League, Nabil Khan is a member of the Swechchhasebok League national committee. He was expelled on charges of extortion at different areas of Darussalam including shopping complex, kitchen market, auto rickshaw stand and cattle market. Later he got back his post.
Everyone is to be given extortion money, who gets that money?
A group of terrorists went to Abhijit Kumar Sengupta, a resident of Nobodoy Housing in Mohammadpur on 11 June and demanded Tk 20,000. While investigating the matter, it was found they are followers of two local terrorists--'Bhangari' Babu and 'Datbhanga' Kabir.
In a case filed in connection with the incident at Mohammadpur police station, Abhijit alleged electricians at his building were assaulted as the extortion money was not given. After filing the case, Babu was arrested.
The police said Babu is former joint convener of Swechchhasebok League of Ward No 33 of Dhaka city north.
When asked whether any action has been taken against Babu for his criminal activities, Swechchhasebok League president Gazi Mesbaul Hossain said the committee of Swechchhasebok League Ward No 33 of Dhaka city north has been dissolved.
About Nabil Khan, he said if an allegation of extortion against him is found, action will be taken.
In connection with extortion, Shah Alam, 35, an activist of Swechchhasebok League was murdered by the opponent group over extortion on 14 October. The incident took place in front of the office of assistant commissioner land of Darussalam police station.
Extortion in the name of top terrors
Names of extortionists at Mohammadpur, Mirpur, Pallabi, Darussalam, Kafrul, Shyampur and Old Dhaka have been learnt
The incidents of extortion are high in Mohammadpur. Incidents of extortion take place in the name of the top terror Abbas group. Locals and the police officials said Abbas is in jail in 10 cases including six murders. He controls extortion from there. Sohagh, Rohimul Islam alias Manik, Rahman, Iqbal, Rabbi and Ashik work on his behalf. This terrorist group is also active in Kafrul.
On behalf of residents at Kafrul, a certain person appealed in writing to the home ministry to protect them from Abbas group on 19 November.
In connection with the matter, the home ministry ordered the Mirpur division of DMP to take action.
Preferring not to be named, the applicant, speaking to Prothom Alo, said internet businessmen, cable businessmen and shopkeepers have to pay extortion regularly. None can talk about this. As a result, he made complaints.
Another top terrorist Taj allegedly controls extortion in Mirpur-13 area from jail. Locals said terrorist Haroon, 'Chamaira' Babu, Kamal, Jony, Khasru, 'Bhaigna' Masud, Liton, Abu, Kawsar, Jony and Raju are active as Taj’s associates.
Mirpur division police’s deputy commissioner Md Jasim Uddin told Prothom Alo that strict action will be taken against the extortionists if investigation proves the allegations of extortion.
Several businessmen of some supermarkets in Mirpur, on condition of anonymity, told that many businessmen of Mirpur were killed for failing to pay extortion. That’s why many businessmen do not even file any general diary (GD) over the incident of extortion. The local criminals come to know quickly if anyone files a GD. So the businessmen continue paying extortion without making any fuss.
The businessmen said they regularly pay VAT or tax to the government, yet they have to pay money to the criminals to ensure safety.
Extortion in Old Dhaka
Police sources said, around 14-15 criminals led by Shuvo and Prince control the extortion in Old Dhaka’s Alu Bazar area. Another criminal named Omar Faruk Kochi controls extortion in Shyampur, Postogola, Jurain, Mill Barack and kitchen market beside Jurain rail line areas.
A police officer of Shyampur police station, on condition of anonymity, told Prothom Alo that Omar Faruk controls the extortion from abroad. His allies collect tolls from supermarkets, kitchen markets, the 'Tempo' stand and Buriganga bridge toll plaza areas.
The common people become victims of extortion in two ways. Firstly, many people have to pay the toll directly. Secondly, extortion increases the prices of goods and services. Traders said that they consider the toll as a cost of doing business and adjust the amount with the prices of the goods.
Former DMP commissioner Nayem Ahmed told Prothom Alo that police have to take the case of extortion as a cognizable offence. This crime can be curbed only if the law enforcers probe each allegation seriously and bring the people involved to book.