eOrange scam: Rana flees after securing bail in Kolkata

  • Sohel Rana couldn’t be extradited to country even after 33 months of arrest

  • Sohel Rana is accused in nine cases on allegations of money embezzlement and fraud

Sheikh Sohel RanaCollected

eOrange patroniser and suspended inspector of Banani police station Sheikh Sohel Rana, who was imprisoned in India for entering the country illegally, went into hiding after securing bail from the Kolkata High Court. His bail order has been cancelled following that, local police said.

Sohel Rana couldn’t be brought back to the country even after 33 months of his arrest in India. However, the relevant department of the police headquarters said the process to bring Sohel Rana back to the country is underway.

Speaking to Prothom Alo over the phone on Friday, Rahul Talukder, officer-in-charge of Mekliganj police station in Cooch Behar district of India, said Sohel Rana was granted bail on condition of renting a house near the police station and reporting once a week. He cited physical illness in his plea for bail. However, he never showed up at the police station after securing bail.

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He further said Sohel’s lawyer told him over the phone that his client won’t be able to report at the police station due to illness. However, the OC insisted that he bring his client. However, they didn’t show up.

Rahul Talukder said the court cancelled the bail order after the police informed the court about this. The police have been unaware about his whereabouts since then. He had six months left to complete his sentence.

Sohel Rana fled to India after the allegations of fraud against eOrange surfaced. Later, he was arrested by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) in Cooch Behar. He has been in prison there since then. Meanwhile, he was temporarily suspended from the post of inspector at the Banani police station on the allegation of being involved in fraudulent activities through eOrange. He used to run the business from behind.

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The National Central Bureau (NCB) of Bangladesh Police is in charge of coordinating and communicating with international agencies regarding extradition of any criminal. Speaking to Prothom Alo, a top NCB official, “Sohel Rana was sentenced to two years in prison and was fined Rs 40,000 for illegal intrusion. He was in the Alipur Central Jail in West Bengal. He was later released on bail from there.”

The police say Sohel Rana has nine cases against him in Dhaka. It’s necessary to bring him back to the country while the trials of these cases are underway. Relevant officials say illegal intrusion is a punishable offence as per the laws of both India and Bangladesh. However, there are still scopes to bring him back to the country to make him face the trial through an extradition treaty or discussions at the top levels of the governments of the two countries.

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It has been learnt that the police were quite serious about bringing him back initially. The police headquarters exchanged letters with relevant Indian agencies eight times as of May 2022. The process didn’t progress further after that. The police officials involved in the investigation couldn’t provide anything specific on Sohel Rana’s extradition either.

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Speaking to Prothom Alo on Thursday, NCB assistant inspector general Ali Haider Chowdhury said, “He (Sohel Rana) didn’t comply with the conditions given by the court. As a result, his bail order was cancelled. Sohel is under red notice. The process to extradite him to the country is being delayed due to the case filed against him in India.”

Progress in the cases

eOrange was one of the e-commerce agencies who were accused of fraud. On 18 August 2021, a case was lodged against the eOrange with the Gulshan police station for embezzling Tk 11 billion. The name of Sohel Rana surfaced after that.

At the moment, Sohel, his wife Naznin Nahar, sister Sonia Mehzabin and her husband Mashqur Rahman have nine cases against them in total on the allegations of fraud, money embezzlement and money laundering. Sonia and Mashqur were released on bail recently. And Naznin is in hiding.

The Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) is investigating four of the nine cases against Sohel Rana. The investigations into these cases are yet to be finished, said relevant DMP officials.

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Besides, the Cyber Police Centre (CPC) under the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the police is investigating four other cases. Special superintendent of police Towhidul Islam, the coordinator of the investigations into these cases, told Prothom Alo they have filed charge sheets against Sohel and his associates in four cases filed against him on the allegations of embezzling a large sum of money from clients through fraud recently.

The Financial Crime Unit of the CID is investigating the case against Sohel Rana filed on the allegation of money laundering. Relevant sources say the Financial Crime Unit wrote to the concerned authorities several times. Besides, the unit also sought information regarding Sohel Rana from the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit and found evidence against him of earning Tk 2.5 billion from criminal sources.

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Meanwhile, the investigating officer in this case, CID inspector Zillur Rahman told Prothom Alo, the money laundering case against Sohel Rana is still under investigation.

*This report appeared on the print and online versions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu