Anti-casino raids: Accused being politically rehabilitated

News reports on Selim Pradhan, a convicted in the case filed during the anti-casino raids across the country, showing interest in contesting for the upcoming upazila elections is quite interesting.

When an all-out crackdown against casinos was underway in 2019, the government policymakers gave the nation an impression that those involved with running the casino business would be brought to justice swiftly. And, casinos will be uprooted. But questions have arisen over the motive of the raids as the trial of most of the cases, filed at that time, have not been completed even after five years. Moreover, one after another, the accused have been released from jail.

On 26 February, Prothom Alo ran a report that said an influential Awami Jubo League leader Ismail Hossain Chowdhury alias Samrat was arrested on 6 October, 2019 for his alleged involvement in illicit casino business. The investigation of the money laundering case filed against him is yet to be concluded. Charge sheets have been submitted before the court in three cases related to acquisition of assets beyond the known sources of his income, narcotics control and arms act.

Apart from Ismail Hossain, 55 cases were filed against 12 people, including Jubo League leader Khaled Mahmud Bhuiyan, Kazi Anisur Rahman, AKM Mominul Haque, five years ago during the raids. Of them, the judicial courts announced verdicts in only five cases. Influential contractor GK Shamim, Selim Pradhan, Gendaria Thana Awami League’s former vice president Enamul Haque, joint general secretary Rupon Bhuiyan and some others have been sentenced. Ismail has been on bail since 27 August, 2022, even though his trial has not been completed. Meanwhile, Jubo League activists brought out processions and pasted posters in his favour.

Charge sheets have been produced before the court in five out of the six cases filed against the Dhaka city south Awami Jubo League’s former organisational secretary Khaled Mahmud Bhuiyan. The cases filed against central Jubo League office secretary Kazi Anisur Rahman and Dhaka city south Jubo League joint general secretary Mominul Haque are also pending.

GK Shamim was sentenced to 10 years in the money laundering case while 11 people, including the expelled Awami League leaders Enamul and Rupon, who are also siblings, were sentenced to different terms in two separate cases filed under the prevention of money laundering act after being detained during the anti-casino drives.

Speaking about the anti-casino raids, the chief public prosecutor of the Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge Court, Abdullah Abu told Prothom Alo that the state had and still has initiatives so that the cases could be settled in the judicial court.

However, the fact that the investigation in the case filed in 2019 has not been completed in April 2024 or that the hearing of some cases was still ongoing do not prove that they have proper initiatives in this regard.

Selim Pradhan, sentenced to four years in the casino-related case, has announced to contest from Rupganj in the upcoming upazila elections. According to the High Court’s ruling, a person who has served two years of imprisonment cannot participate in the elections. Although Selim Pradhan claimed that the case against him was conspiratorial and he filed a writ against it in the High Court.

The election commission will decide whether Selim Pradhan can contest the elections or not. But what is the answer to the question that the cases filed during the anti-casino drives have not been resolved in all these years? Not only have the casino-kingpins evaded prosecution, they are being rehabilitated in politics. It is not only a violation of the previous announcement of the government, but also against the rule of law.