A forgery gang had an easy access to the database of the server of National Identity (NID) Registration Wing of the election commission, according to the police.
The police said this gang used to collect information entering the database of the server. The gang could add someone’s finger print along with photo to the server by making NIDs.
Mostafa Faruk, a member of the gang and also data entry operator at the district election office in Chattogram, carried out the unethical practice, the police claimed.
Police said they reportedly got the information by interrogating Mostafa Faruk who was arrested on Thursday night.
Recovering his personal laptop and three pen drives from his home, police found a voter list of Chattogram and its adjacent districts. The voter list was downloaded from the server.
Police also recovered a laptop and a modem which were used for the data entry of the election commission. Three signature pads, bearing the name of Rauzan upazila election officer, were also recovered. Police said the equipment was used for making NIDs.
Mostafa, a temporary staff at EC, carried out the work of data entry. He had the password to access the server.
In a primary interrogation, police found that he in collusion with the forgery gang made NIDs in the name of around 3,000 people in last five years.
However, officials at the counter terrorism unit of Chattogram police believe the number might be much higher.
According to the investigating team, the gang used information of deceased people to make false NID. They used to change the finger print and photo of the deceased person and uploaded it on the EC server keeping rest of the record intact. The information is now under investigation.
Meanwhile, police arrested three people including Chattogram’s Double Mooring thana election office assistant Jaynal Abedin on Monday for being involved with the forgery gang.
Deputy commissioner of Chattogram police’s counter terrorism unit, Mohammad Shahidullah, on Friday told Prothom Alo that the gang was making false NIDs since 2014.
Gang leader Mostafa himself used to upload (information, photo, and finger print) in the NID server.
Jaynal Abedin with the help of brokers used to bring different people including Rohingyas to Mostafa to make false NIDs. Police also got information about some EC officials who had connection with the gang. The gang managed to misuse the EC server due to the negligence of some officials.
The forgery gang also had a link with Dhaka.
Investigation officer of the case inspector Rajesh Barua said Mostafa was put on remand for an interrogation. The court on Friday accepted a five-day remand for Mostafa.
According to the investigation team, Mostafa also visited the Dhaka EC office. He has all the information including the password to enter the EC server. He, himself, can upload the information in the EC server. He also used to make NID and sent it to two EC employees in Dhaka to upload in the server. Those two were recruited through outsourcing under the NID Card Project in Dhaka. They had good relations with Mostafa who used to charge Tk 50,000-60,000 to make an NID. He also told the investigating team about those who got shares of the money.
Mostafa has been working for almost 10 years. He also worked with the Chattogram election office during the current voter list update programme.
Outcome of negligence
By changing names and addresses, the Rohingyas are getting listed as voters from different part of the country including Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar for a long time.
The militants are taking houses on rent by using false NIDs. A number of EC field-level employees are involved in it. There is an allegation that many EC employees have shared their password with the office assistant and data entry operators. Despite being informed, EC failed to take any action.
Deputy secretary at the EC secretariat, M Khorshed Alam, said they are cooperating with police to arrest the members of the forgery gang. He told Prothom Alo on Friday that measures have been taken 15 days ago so that they are not able to access the EC server.
When asked why measures were not taken as the forgery had been going on for the last five years, Khorshed Alam said measures are taken just after they were informed about the scam.
Chattogram unit secretary of Sushasoner Jonno Nagorik (Sujan), Akhtar Kabir Chowdhury, said the NID forgery gang came into being due to the negligence of the EC officials.
Some top officials might be involved with the gang, he added.
It would be a threat to the national security if the NID server is not secured, Kabir Chowdhury warned.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Saimul Huda.