Amid the recent clampdown on casinos and clubs, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has unearthed about 21 casinos run by leaders of ruling Awami League and its youth wing, Jubo League, in various apartments around the capital.
More than 100 Nepalese citizens would look after the technical side of these casinos in the apartments and clubs, according to RAB.
These Nepalese came to Bangladesh with tourist visas and were operating the casinos for months. They went into hiding after RAB’s mobile court raided four clubs in Dhaka on 18 September.
Members of the police and an intelligence agency helped them flee, according to the officials involved with the investigation.
There are casinos running in three apartments in Bailey Road, one in Gulshan, 10 in Banani and seven apartments in Uttara. Dhaka South Metropolitan Jubo League president Ismail Hossain Chowdhury alias Samrat controls the three casinos in Bailey Road. He was not available for comment though.
Another Jubo League leader Shahadat Hossain alias Selim runs the casinos in apartments at Ahmed Tower and Sweet Dreams in Kamal Ataturk Avenue in Banani and in another building of the area. He is the organising secretary of Dhaka North Metropolitan Jubo League.
The security guard of Ahmed Tower, Md Sumon, told Prothom Alo that a man introducing him as Abul Kashem rented the flat to run a business, but Samrat and Shahadat opened the casino here later. Samrat is said to be involved in running all the casinos in the area.
RAB has sealed the one in the Ahmed Tower along with others in the recent drive.
Shahadat Hossain, however, claimed to Prothom Alo that neither he goes to these casinos nor does he know anything about those.
According to RAB officials, Uttara (West) Thana unit Sramik League secretary general Kazi Zakaria was running a casino in an apartment in sector-1 of Uttara.
A number of locals told Prothom Alo that Sramik League leader Zakaria and Zakir Hossain run the casino illegally. He went into hiding leaving the casino locked after the RAB began its drive.
Dhaka North Metropolitan Jubo League leader Ismail Hossain runs a couple of casinos in rented apartments in sector 4 and 9 in Uttara, RAB said.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Ismail denied allegations of his involvement with the casinos.
An owner of a house on Road 13 in Gulshan-1 alleged that two persons -- AHM Hashim Ahmed and Kazi Mishqat Hossain -- rented an apartment on the ground floor and started a casino ‘Club 89’.
He complained to the home ministry, Dhaka Metropolitan Police and the deputy commissioner of Gulshan police about gambling and narcotics in the casino, but to no avail, he added.
RAB’s legal and media wing official Lt Col Sarwar Bin Kashem told Prothom Alo that they will raid various casinos running in residential apartments soon.
The RAB is trying to identify and arrest the Nepalese involved in running the casinos, he added.
A senior official involved with the investigations said a casino was first opened using digital machines at Mohammedan Sporting Club in 2017. A Nepalese was brought to run the casino then.
The following year, Victoria Sporting Club and Wanderers Club also brought Nepalese citizens to run casinos. The machines were imported from China under false declarations.
20 per cent profit for Nepalese nationals
Senior RAB officials told Prothom Alo that over a hundred Nepalese used to work in the casinos in Dhaka and take 20 per cent of profit every day. They got up to Tk 300,000 as salary per month as well. They laundered the money to their country.
Of those Nepalese, 13 lived in rented houses in Naya Paltan and Segun Bagicha near the Paltan police station with the help of Mohammedan club official Md Masum.
These Nepalese went into hiding with the help of the police and intelligence agencies after the RAB operation began on Wednesday.
RAB raided the houses early morning but found no one. They recovered passports of six Nepalese - Prasayan Sidhai, Sidhai Niraz, Dangal Bikash Nan, Nakarmi Gautam, Ranjit Bacchan and Nayazi Shrestha.
CCTV footage from that building showed several people with walkie-talkies entering the house after 10:00 pm on 18 September and left around 11:30 pm. One of them had a bag. RAB suspects the bag was full of money. Nine Nepalese, one after another, left the home with luggage around 1:45 am on 19 September.
DMP sources said CCTV footage found at the Segunbagicha building showed one of the persons with a walkie-talkie was a programme manager of an intelligence agency. Investigations are underway.
Another was identified as constable Dipankar Chakma, attached to Ramna police station, said DMP’s Ramna division deputy commissioner Sajjadur Rahman. An investigation is underway about this too, he said.
Security guard of the house, Md Mamun said, “I asked some men to write down their addresses when they were going to an apartment. They said you won’t face any problem. Guests also come, isn’t that so?”
A resident of the building, on condition of anonymity, said plainclothesmen introduced themselves as police and entered the building. They did not take security guards with them. The Nepalese left early morning after the plainclothesmen left.
RAB headquarters executive magistrate Md Sarwar Alam told Prothom Alo that they have collected video footage of the Nepalese.
The law enforcement is trying to bring them to book, he added.
* The report, published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat and Shameem Reza