The signature of a certain administrative officer of the foreign ministry appears on the visas issued to nationals of several African countries. The official would serve at the Bangladesh high commission in Nairobi, Kenya. Prothom Alo investigations reveals he has around Tk 230 million (Tk 23 crore) in three bank accounts.
This government official is Zakir Hossain. He served as administrative officer from 31 August 2009 to 23 June 2019 at the Bangladesh high commission in Nairobi, Kenya. An administrative officer has no official authority to issue visas, but Zakir Hossain had been issuing visas year after year with permission from the high commission at the time. And all the forged visas shown to be issued by the high commission in Nairobi being caught at the Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka even now bear the signature of Zakir Hossain.
Officers of the police’s Special Branch (SB) said that on 23 June 2019, Zakir Hossain was transferred back and joined the foreign ministry in Dhaka. But even after his return he has kept up his visa forgery business. He collects the passports of nationals from various African countries through ‘agents’, attaches forged visas to these and dispatches them though international courier service. Aiding him in this work is Nigerian national Camo Prince.
Zakir Hossain studied biology at Dhaka University. In 1992 he joined the foreign ministry as an office assistant. He is from Bashabati of Bagehat town.
According to the police, persons from Nigeria, Cameroon, Tanzania, Guinea, Ghana, Mali, Kenya and other countries in Africa, come to Bangladesh on visit or business visas and carry out all sorts of scams and criminal businesses here. Such foreign criminal rings have been carrying out their scams in Bangladesh for over a decade now. So far cases have been filed against 157 persons accused of cheating and other crimes. And 86 are in various jails of the country at present.
How Zakir came to notice
On 14 November 2019, four Nigerians arrived at the Shahjalal International Airport via Istanbul, Turkey. The immigration officials became suspicious while checking their papers. All of their visas were signed by Zakir Hossain. The police’s Special Branch (SB) investigations revealed that these visas were forged and issued in exchange of money. The four Nigerians were sent back to their country after interrogations.
The SB investigation report said that during interrogations, the four Nigerians told the SCO (diplomatic and protocol) branch official that as it was difficult to get a visa in Nigeria, they sent their passports through an agent to Nairobi, Kenya and got their visas from there. Since Bangladesh has a high commission in Nigeria, it is a violation of rules to issue Nigerians visas from Kenya. When the Bangladesh high commission in Nairobi was contacted via email in this regard, they said that these visas were forged and not issued by their high commission.
The Special Branch seized one Cameroon passport and two Nigerian passports during a recent crackdown in illegal foreigners in Nikunja and Basundhara areas of the capital city Dhaka. The visas in all three passports had the signature of consular officer Zakir Hossain. One of the visas issued in the name of Ifechuku Alan Amaf, was dated 10 March.
And the visa of one of the four Nigerians caught at the airport on 14 November 2019, was dated 25 February 2020!
Head of the high commission in Nairobi, Sayem Ahmed, told Prothom Alo that often inquiries are coming in from Hazrat Shahjalal Airport about visas of various persons. He said, “All these forged visas are stamped. But we are issuing machine readable visas.”
When Zakir Hossain had been in Nairobi, the Bangladesh high commissioner there had been Abul Kalam Md Humayun Kabir. When asked about giving an administrative officer the authority to issue visas, he told Prothom Alo that Zakir Hossain had been given the responsibility as there was no diplomatic officer there to do the job. But that was just for a few days, he added.
Zakir Hossain, however, told Prothom Alo that after going to Kenya, he was given the full responsibility of a consular in 2010. The high commissioner at the time have him the authority to issue visas from July 2015.
When a phone call was made to Zakir Hossain to ask him about the forged visas, his younger brother Zahid Hossain answered the call. He told Prothom Alo that Zakir Hossain was in Tanzania at present. Within a couple of hours, Zakir Hossain called this correspondent over WhatsApp from a different number. He said he was in Zanzibar, Tanzania. He denied being involved in forging visas and said all the visas he had issued were with the approval of the high commission at the time.
It is very unnatural for an administration officer to have millions in his bank accounts. The matter demands proper investigation and punitive action. It should also be looked into whether the high commissioner at the time was also involved in any of these irregularities
Bank transaction in millions
Three accounts in the name Zakir Hossain were detected in private bank in Bagerhat. Sources believe there are likely to be more bank accounts in his name. The bank statements of these three accounts show that from 1 January 2013 till December this year, Tk 216,500,914 (Tk 21 crore 65 lakh 914) had been deposited in one of the savings accounts. And he had withdrawn Tk 211,587,381 (Tk 21 crore 15 lakh 87 thousand 381) from this at various times.
The other two accounts were savings accounts based on profits. On 15 September 2016 he bought savings certificates of Tk 7.3 million (Tk 73 lakh) against one of the accounts. After three years, on 19 September he withdrew the entire amount with profits, totaling Tk 1,988,600 (Tk 19 lakh 88 thousand 600). He bought savings certificates of Tk4.8 million (Tk 48 lakh) in April 2015 against another account. Then three years later Tk 6,273,800 (Tk 62 lakh 73 thousand 800) was withdrawn, inclusive of profits.
When asked about these big transactions, Zakir Hossain told Prothom Alo that as there had not been much work at the high commission in Kenya, he had started a car business there. He would send that money to his bank accounts back home, he said.
When asked if it was valid for a government official to run a business, he said he was quit unaware that business couldn’t be conducted.
Working even after ‘stand release’
An official of the foreign ministry, in condition of anonymity, told Prothom Alo that due to his involvement in various forgeries and fraud also involving visas, the foreign ministry has issued a ‘stand release’ order against Zakir Hossain in Nairobi and recalled him to Dhaka. Even after that, Zakir worked there for six more months.
Abul Kalam Md Humayun Kabir, the Bangladesh high commissioner in Kenya at the time, told Prothom Alo that he was unaware of Zakir Hossain’s involvement in visas forgery.
When asked how Zakir Hossain worked for 6 months after being given stand release orders, he said that Zakir Hossain had been unwell and remained there on advice of a medical board.
However, according to foreign ministry sources, even during that period Zakir Hossain issued visas. The papers submitted regarding his illness were also suspicious and were now being checked and verified.
Zakir Hossain claimed he had taken leave in lien from the foreign ministry and was working for the UN Habitat in Tanzania. Incidentally, Abul Kalam Md Humayun had been the vice chairman of UN Habitat and Zakir Hossain got the work there through that connection.
A departmental inquiry is being conducted into the various allegations against Zakir Hossain and so he is not entitled to lien at this time.
Former foreign secretary Touhid Hossain, speaking to Prothom Alo, said it is very unnatural for an administration officer to have millions in his bank accounts. The matter demands proper investigation and punitive action. It should also be looked into whether the high commissioner at the time was also involved in any of these irregularities.