Zaynal Abedin, recently arrested over allegedly providing fake National Identity (NID) cards to Rohingyas, is an office assistant at the local election office in Chattogram.
He owns an under construction five-storey building and quite popular in the locality where most of the residents live in mud houses at Ashakaria Para of Banshkhali police station of Chattogram district.
The house costs Zaynal more than Tk 10 million. His sudden upsurge of money raised the eyebrows of his neighbours.
He, now suspended, joined as the assistant officer at the local election office under Bangladesh Election Commission in 2004.
Zaynal was arrested for providing Rohingyas with fake National Identity cards and passports of Bangladesh.
The EC lost a laptop in 2015. The laptop, which has already been recovered, was behind the rise of Zaynal.
According to the officials involved in the probe, Zaynal amassed the illegal money using the laptop.
The officials said Zaynal is not the only one. Zaynal has at least 10 relatives working at several election offices across the country.
Local people said Zaynal and his brother Jasim Uddin Chowdhury used to help Rohingyas create fake NIDs and passports of Bangladesh to go abroad.
Md Harun, councilor at Banshkhali upazila’s word no. 7, said Zaynal owns the under construction house. He has amassed millions of taka over the last few years.
Zaynal, the councilor added, used to send Rohingyas abroad with the help of his younger brother.
The issue of fake NID came to attention after earlier on 18 August this year, a certain Lucky Akter, a Rohingya woman, was detained while collecting her NID from the Chattogram election office.
Following the backlash, EC itself and the Ant-Corruption Commission (ACC) of Bangladesh launched separate investigations into the matter.
Who Is Zaynal?
Zaynal is the son of Abdul Monaf, a former worker on a fish trawler. Zaynal’s is from Ashkaria Para area of the municipality. He is the eldest among two brothers and a sister. His younger brother Jasim was an expatriate worker.
Two years ago, he built a brick house on his ancestral homestead. He now lives with his family there.
During a visit to the house, the Prothom Alo correspondent found that the house was under lock and key.
Neighbours said the residents had fled away in the morning.
Local resident Habibur Rahman said Zaynal purchased the 7 decimals of land one year ago, costing Tk 2.1 million. He started constructing the house six months ago.
This is the tallest building of this village right now, Habibur added.
The correspondent also found that four floors of the five-storey building have been completed.
It has been learnt that Zaynal has bought another piece of land bigger than this one in ward no. 3 in the municipality.
Zaynal has at least 10 relatives working at several offices including Dhaka office of the election commission. Like Zaynal, husband of his sister Nur Ahmad joined as an office assistant at the Chattogram office in 2004.
The ACC has recently interrogated the duos at the election office.
ACC’s Chattogram office’s deputy assistant director Jafar Sadeq said they have many relatives working at the several offices of the election commission.
This is a ring. Efforts are on to bust the ring, Jafar Sadeq added.
On 15 September, Zaynal was arrested for supplying fake NIDs to the Rohingya people; more than a million of them have been given shelter as refugees in the coastal district of Bangladesh, Cox’s Bazar.
Following his arrest, the Chattogram election office suspends Zaynal temporarily.
Zaynal’s cousin Md Mozaffar works at the Cox’s Bazar election office. His one more relative Mohammad Ali is attached to the Rangamati district election office while another relative Osman Gani Chowdhury is administrative officer at the election commission’s Dhaka office. They all were appointed in 2004.
“I’ve been interrogated due to Zaynal’s misdeeds. I’m not involved with that,” said Nur Ahmad, husband of the Zaynal’s sister.
51 more fake NIDs
Meanwhile, the election commission’s investigative team interrogated five officials at the Chattogram office over the fake NIDs.
The team recovered information about the Rohingya fake national identities from Zaynal’s handset.
As per his confessional statement, the election office recovered the lost laptop from one of Zaynal’s friends - Bijoy Das.
ACC also arrested Bijoy Das and one of his relatives Sumaiya Akter.
About the matter, chief of the election commission’s investigation team deputy-director Iqbal Hossain told Prothom Alo that they have erased much information from the laptop.
Despite that, the probe team has found information about 51 more fake NIDs on the laptop.
“We preliminarily assumed that the cards were prepared for Rohingyas.”
The election commission (EC) lost two laptops in 2014 and 2015. But, the laptops are active till date, but the commission kept mum for the last several years.
Technical expert Md Shahabuddin and also a member of the probe team said the laptops were used to produce fake NIDs.
NID for Tk 50,000
Double Mooring election office’s official Pallabi Chakma filed a case against five people including the aforementioned three arrestees.
The other arrested are Sagor, 37, and Satya Sundar, 38. They worked at the election office for uploading information on election server in 2007.
Kotwali police station officer-in-charge Mohammad Mohsin said Sagor worked for uploading information on EC server while Satya Sundar was a data entry expert.
Satya has passwords of NID information uploading accounts of all upazilas.
Satya used to take Tk 50,000-Tk 60,000 for a fake NID.
The OC also said the counter-terrorism team is also investigating the matter.
*The report, published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Toriqul Islam.