Extracting money from unsuspecting people by fraudulent means, luring people through false promises of extra earning by investing in bitcoins or gold, forging friendships to get expensive gifts, and taking money by promising lucrative jobs abroad, have become very common ploys. Foreign nationals are involved in many of these cases.
Many foreign citizens are also being arrested for involvement in different sorts of criminal activities like ATM booth fraud, credit card scams, running casinos online, smuggling gold and exotic drugs, counterfeiting money, illegal VOIP business and human trafficking.
According to the figures of the law enforcement agencies, some 726 foreign nationals from 33 countries were accused in different criminal cases filed in the last 10 years. Of them, 91 are from Nigeria, 28 from Pakistan and 17 from Cameroon. Besides, some 137 foreign nationals from 14 countries have been arrested so far in different criminal cases. Most of them have come to the country on business and tourist visas. Some are living in the country illegally after coming here on “on arrival visa”.
Officials relevant to the investigations say many of the foreigners destroy their passports after entering Bangladesh. Many of them throw away the passport after their visa expires or file a general diary citing the loss of their passport to take the chance of living here illegally. Meanwhile, many of them live here illegally after being arrested or being made accused in a case, taking the advantage of the lengthy process of trial in our country.
Speaking to Prothom Alo in this regard, deputy inspector general (DIG, operations) of the police headquarters, Anwar Hossain told Prothom Alo, “Foreigners, whose visas have expired, are considered illegal immigrants. Legal action is are being taken against them. Besides, drives are on to detain foreigners involved in criminal activities."
According to police sources, a group of local criminals are helping these foreigners involved in fraudulent activities.
42,000 foreigners living illegally in Bangladesh
According to the relevant sources in the immigration department of the police, a total of 86,962 foreign citizens are residing in the country at the moment. Visas of some 42,429 foreigners have expired. They are now living in the country illegally. A major portion of them entered the country on business, travel, student and player visas. Of the illegal immigrants living in the country, some 5,597 came to the country on ‘on arrival visa’.
The law enforcement agencies have information that a large section of these illegal immigrants work for different private firms. At the same time, a certain portion of them are getting involved in different sorts of offences including fraud. The police have arrested a total of 137 foreign nationals from 14 countries – Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali, Congo, Tanzania, Ghana, Guinea, Uganda, Ethiopia, Angola, Peru, Algeria, China and Ukraine. Of them, some 51 are in the prison at the moment. The rest are released on bail.
Various forms of fraud
A woman from the Sirajdikhan area of Munshiganj got acquainted with a foreigner through Instagram. They continued chatting with each other. On 17 September, that woman was told that a very precious gift had been sent to her address and she would have to collect that from the Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka.
The next day, a woman, introducing herself as a customs officer of the airport, called her and said that she had received a very precious parcel for her from abroad. However, she would need to pay Tk 60,000 as a tariff to a certain bank account to get that. Following the call, the woman from Sirajdikhan deposited Tk 35,000 to the bank account given by the woman who claimed to be a customs officer.
Later, a woman claiming to be a customs officer demanded another Tk 30,000 as security charge. The victim also paid that. After that, that woman told the victim that the parcel would be delivered to her (victim’s) home.
Later she was asked to pay another amount of Tk 8,320 through mobile banking, which raised doubts in her mind. After that, she informed the RAB-10 (Rapid Action Battalion-10) about this. Later, the RAB arrested two Nigerian citizens named Efennadi Udizo, Franc Coco Obaiarques and two of their associates on the allegations of fraud.
Additional deputy inspector general of RAB-10 Mohammad Farid Uddin told Prothom Alo that both Udizo and Franc Coco confessed during the interrogation that they came to Bangladesh on tourist visas in 2019. They tore up their passport following landing in Dhaka. Udizo has confessed of being accused in another case as well.
The RAB official further said, “The Nigerians usually don’t want to go back to their country. They want to be made accused in criminal cases, which will prolong their stay in Bangladesh. The government will have to deport them at its own cost, which is another barrier.”
Opening a website similar to US-based multinational company Amazon, two Chinese nationals, Jhang Ping and Jhang Iruya used to circulate advertisements. If anyone took the bait from such advertisements stating, ‘Earn Tk 18,000 from working online for 20 minutes a day’, they used to tactically take money from them.
A team of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s (DMP) detective branch (DB) arrested four people including these two from Satkania in Chattogram on 2 August. The DB police found traces of this ring while investigating a fraud case filed by a former government employee. Deputy commissioner (DC) of the DB police Iqbal Hossain (currently posted in the Wari division) said that some 2,000 people fell victim to this ring in just three months.
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrested four citizens of Ghana and Nigeria on 27 August on allegations of fraudulent activities on social media. None of them had any passports.
Some four months prior to that, some 13, including 12 Nigerian and one Bangladeshi, were arrested from the capital’s Pallabi and Bhatara area on allegations of online fraud. They came to Bangladesh on player and business visas. Although their visa expired, they kept on living in Bangladesh.
Earlier In 2021, six Ukrainian citizens were arrested from a hotel in the capital’s Panthapath area for forging credit cards in Dhaka. They went back to their country after being secretly released on bail.
Khandaker Al Moin, legal and media wing director of the RAB, said the Department of Immigration and Passports have the list of illegal immigrants has the list of illegal immigrants in the country.
The law enforcement agencies could take actions if they are given the task to bring the illegal immigrants to book. Besides, the government could order the people, whose visas have expired, to leave the country.
*This report appeared on the print and online versions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu and Nourin Ahmed Monisha