Prothom Alo illustration

Trial has begun in none of the four cases filed against former Juba League leader Ismail Hossain Chowdhury alias Samrat who was arrested on allegation of involvement in casino business. He was arrested while going into a hiding during a ‘purging operation’ in Awami League three years ago. Police, Rapid Action Battalion and Anti-Corruption Commission filed cases against him under narcotics control act, arms act as well as for money laundering and amassing wealth beyond known income sources.

According to a Prothom Alo report, this expelled leader of Juba League brought out a big showdown on streets on 26 August after walking out of jail on bail in four cases. He went to Dhammondi 32, taking along several thousands of leaders and activists by motorcycles, cars and pickup vans. His supports were seen chanting slogans. The entourage created a traffic gridlock on roads in Russell Square and adjacent areas on the weekend. Such showdown by an accused in severe crimes usually raised various questions and fear among people.

Law enforcement agencies had launched a large-scale drive against illegal casino operation from September to December of 2019. The series of drives unearthed who were earning billions of taka through casino business using political clout and how they were laundering a big portion of this money as well.

The anti-casino operation also revealed that a faction of Awami League’s associate bodies Juba League and Swechasebak League got involved in gambling, casino, money laundering, arms scandal, extortion and torture.

According to police and court sources, trial proceedings of the persons arrested during the drives against casino operation are going very slowly. Other than Samrat, 13 people including Arman, Khaled Mahmud Bhuiyan, GK Shamim and Selim Pradhan were arrested during the drives. Fifty-seven cases were filed against them, with charge sheet being filed in 52 of these cases, but trial proceedings are yet to begin as charge framing hasn’t been completed in most of the cases and verdict was delivered in just one case.

Charge sheet was filed with the court in three cases against Samrat though charges were framed in neither of these cases. Besides, court could not accept charge sheet in money laundering case as investigation is yet to be concluded. Investigating officials concerned said Samrat allegedly laundered Tk 1.98 billion to Singapore and Malaysia, and spent a big portion of these money at casinos in Singapore. According to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), letters have been sent to Singapore and Malaysia seeking information on the money laundered by Samrat, but no reply is yet to be received.

Samrat had been undergoing treatment at the prison cell of Dhaka Medical College Hospital for a long time with the excuse of being severely ill. The question is how a seriously ill person can stage a showdown with followers, right after being freed on bail. Influential people, either convicted or undergoing trial, have been noticed staying in hospital’s prison cell instead of lockup, in the name of treatment even before. Many information about their comfy life came to light as well.

ACC appealed at the High Court seeking revocation of Samrat’s bail. According to law, before being convicted at the court there is the right to avail bail in any bailable lawsuit. None of the allegations found against most of the people including Samrat, arrested during the casino raid, are less severe. Others including Samrat kept committing such crimes time and again using their political power. The fact that the trial of these sensational cases has not started yet after a long time is simultaneously disappointing as well as concerning. Procrastination in trial is an obstacle to justice. Justice free from political influence is desired by all.