The gangster, the overall and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh | Corruption Information

The gangster, the overall and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh | Corruption Information

“I can have you ever killed. But when I kill you, then you definitely received’t really feel the ache. I’ll make you endure.”

Mohammad Hasan smiled grimly and took a deep drag on his cigarette. His fingers, loaded with gold rings and bracelets, clinked as he described how he settled an previous rating with a rival. A cloud of smoke rose in direction of the ceiling of the cramped room in a cash alternate kiosk on a quiet Budapest backstreet. He expressed little emotion or pity. It gave the impression to be simply enterprise. It was like a scene from a mafia film.

He defined how he had enlisted an notorious elite anti-terrorism unit 1000’s of miles away to trace his sufferer’s cell phone and arrest him. His outstanding story of revenge and punishment hyperlinks him to one of the crucial feared paramilitary teams on the earth: the Fast Motion Battalion or RAB, infamous for murders, abductions and torture all through Bangladesh. It additionally hyperlinks him to the very prime of that nation’s political elite and to one of the crucial highly effective males within the nation.

Who’s Mohammad Hasan?

Mohammad Hasan is 2 individuals, considered one of whom has a vital household title.

His first identification is that of a small-time businessman from Bangladesh who journeyed 1000’s of miles to construct a brand new life in Europe. The cash alternate, referred to as Bay of Bengal, is considered one of a number of ventures Hasan has run in Budapest since arriving in Could 2015. The cash alternate is illegitimate with no license to function, however that doesn’t matter to Hasan.

Subsequent door, tucked away in a slender avenue is one other of his ventures – a small conventional Hungarian diner buying and selling underneath the title Gulyas Etterem, Goulash Restaurant. It’s within the coronary heart of the previous quarter the place vacationers normally flock, however the restaurant is shedding cash identical to Hasan’s different companies. He has operated a scholar hostel, one other restaurant within the previous quarter and a girls’s clothes retailer. Hasan has cash issues, however not those you’ll suspect. There are many funds flowing his means; his downside is understanding find out how to conceal this wealth.

However this Mohammad Hasan, barely constructed with a style for costly garments, is a piece of pure fiction. It’s a false identification constructed on dozens of fastidiously cast paperwork that helped Bangladesh’s “most needed” gangster successfully disappear into skinny air. Now Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit can reveal the true identification of Mohammed Hasan, a person who can boast the loyalty of a world chief and the safety of a military.

His actual title is Haris Ahmed and he’s the third-oldest son of a giant household from the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. Born in 1966, he left faculty early and as a younger man shortly discovered demand for his expertise for violence and extortion among the many crime gangs of his metropolis. Alongside together with his brothers – Josef, Anis and Tipu – the Ahmed clan constructed up a fearsome repute as back-street enforcers for rent; males able to excessive violence after they deemed it crucial.

The rise of the Ahmed brothers

Within the Eighties, the Ahmed clan had established their grip on the sprawling Mohammadpur district of Dhaka, which introduced them wealth and prominence. It was a bustling space, stuffed with small companies and meals stalls the place the 4 brothers extorted store house owners to pay for his or her safety.

Bangladesh within the Eighties was a very good place for the Ahmed brothers to ply their commerce, a violent and unstable nation nonetheless uncooked from civil struggle and a army coup wherein the nation’s founding president, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and his household had been murdered by military officers.

Earlier than 1971, there was no Bangladesh, it was East Pakistan and ruled by Islamabad. Often called the daddy of the nation, Sheikh Mujib had led an rebellion in opposition to Pakistan. It was a savage struggle wherein the Pakistan military slaughtered at the very least 300,000 civilians. Pakistan was defeated with decisive army assist from neighbouring India, which retains a strong affect in Bangladesh to today.

The younger nation was seething with political violence and a partnership was quickly to emerge between politicians and the road gangs. In return for the patronage of the politicians, gangs offered the muscle that helped them survive.

Do you will have data on authorities corruption or wish to share one other tip? Contact Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit on +974 5080 0207 (WhatsApp/Sign), or discover different methods to succeed in out on our Ideas web page.

The Ahmed clan’s networks within the Dhaka underworld proved vital to the survival of the leaders of the Awami League, the political celebration beforehand led by the murdered Sheikh Mujib. By now it was led by his daughter Sheikh Hasina, who had returned to Bangladesh from exile in India in 1981.

It was a very difficult time for the younger politician, the oldest of Sheikh Mujib’s youngsters. She and her sister, Sheikh Rehana, solely escaped the violent destiny of their household as they had been in another country on the time. In 1982, following yet one more coup, the military-backed authorities of Normal Hussain Muhammad Ershad seized energy. Sheikh Hasina confronted the fixed risk of home arrest, detention and bodily assault.

Amidst the violence and uncertainty, the Ahmed brothers turned the unofficial safety cordon that shielded Sheikh Hasina. They guarded her at rallies and offered secure homes the place Awami League politicians may meet with out concern of arrest or assault.

The brothers had been feared. However they had been additionally to face vengeance. Tipu was the youngest and, in response to a buddy, essentially the most clever of the brothers. After establishing himself because the don who ran Mohammadpur, he was murdered in 1999 in a gangland killing.

Twenty years earlier, whereas 4 of the Ahmed brothers labored their means up the ranks of Dhaka’s prison underworld, a fifth, Aziz Ahmed, selected a unique path when he enlisted within the Bangladesh military. His colleagues on the Bangladesh Navy Academy rated him as an unremarkable officer, however Aziz rose shortly by way of the ranks, his promotions in lockstep with the rising political energy of Sheikh Hasina.

Within the cycle of shootings, beatings and murders in Dhaka, one ugly killing modified the future of the Ahmed clan perpetually. In 1996, Mustafizur Rahman Mustafa was gunned down in a dusty again avenue by three Ahmed brothers; Anis, Haris and Josef. Regardless of being riddled with bullets Rahman survived lengthy sufficient to be the star witness at his personal homicide trial. His testimony, delivered from his deathbed in hospital, sealed the destiny of the Ahmed gang at a trial in 2004.

There are conflicting studies about who Rahman was; one model is that he was a member of the Freedom Occasion, based by the officers who assassinated Sheikh Hasina’s father, and that he was a part of a mob that attacked her home with grenades in 1989. In a weird twist, practically a yr after Rahman’s homicide he was charged posthumously with the assault on her residence, the identical place the place her father was slain and that’s now a nationwide memorial. Others, together with his spouse, declare his homicide was part of a gang feud. The capturing came about in broad daylight as a crowd regarded on. There have been many witnesses, and whereas doubt lingers over the motive, there’s none concerning the culprits.

In 2004, Josef Ahmed was sentenced to loss of life for the homicide. His brothers, Anis and Haris, got life in jail however managed to flee the nation. It’s thought that Anis Ahmed went to Malaysia and Haris went into hiding in India, probably with the safety of Indian army intelligence.

An vital bond

To flee justice in Bangladesh is one factor, however to remain past the attain of the regulation requires cash, contacts and a strong community. Right here the Ahmed gang had a extremely positioned asset – due to the meteoric rise of their brother, Aziz Ahmed, who by 2012 had been promoted to go the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB), the nation’s oldest uniformed drive. Beneath his command, the BGB launched a crackdown on opposition events. Aziz performed an vital position in securing an election victory for Sheikh Hasina throughout the avenue violence of the 2014 normal election.

The place had been you all when grenades had been thrown in my home?

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

By June 2018, Aziz was promoted to chief of military workers, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina personally presiding over the ceremony because the minister of defence. That the prime minister can also be the pinnacle of the armed forces is a mark of the central position performed by the army in Bangladeshi politics. The Ahmed clan had proved themselves loyal to Sheikh Hasina and he or she, in flip, appointed their brother to command her military.

Later that yr, Normal Aziz’s troopers guarded the nation’s polling stations because the Awami League received one other landslide victory. That very same yr, Aziz’s brother Josef, who had earlier had his loss of life sentence commuted to life imprisonment, was launched from jail by a extremely uncommon presidential pardon.

The bond of safety and repair between the Ahmed clan and the politically ruthless Sheikh Hasina appeared to have come full circle.

The making of Mohammad Hasan

Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit has obtained secret audio recordings of telephone calls made by Normal Aziz that reveal the power of that bond. In a single name he recounts how Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina praised his brothers to senior celebration members: “Look, you don’t know higher than me who his brothers are. The place had been you all when grenades had been thrown in my home? This stuff had been occurring to my home. The place had been you? This chief’s brothers had been throughout me.”

In accordance with Aziz, Sheikh Hasina additionally described his brothers as her “mainstay”.

In one other covert recording to a former army colleague, Normal Aziz underlined the Ahmed clan’s loyalty to the Prime Minister. “Hear, my buddy, even in any case this stuff, these brothers haven’t modified sides. We simply don’t have that type of blood. We simply aren’t constructed to betray.”

Aziz rose shortly by way of the ranks, his promotions in lockstep with the rising political energy of Sheikh Hasina.

On December 9, 2014, Normal Aziz strode into the swish marble foyer of the Kempinski Lodge in Budapest. The overall was an official delegate on the World Borderpol Congress, the place border police chiefs collect to debate safety and immigration. No higher place to hatch a plan to smuggle a fugitive throughout a global frontier utilizing a false passport. It could have made a very good case research for his fellow delegates.

Bangladesh embassy officers had requested a younger Bangladeshi to assist Normal Aziz throughout his keep in Hungary. Sami, whose title we have now modified for his security, was a 30-year-old entrepreneur making his means in Hungary. He felt honoured to assist a visiting VIP from his homeland.

Because the pair loved a river cruise on the icy waters of the Danube, the historic metropolis of Budapest gliding previous their dinner desk, Normal Aziz requested Sami a query: would he assist the overall’s brother, a person named Mohammad Hasan, arrange a enterprise in Budapest and purchase residency? It appeared a easy sufficient request.


Haris and Aziz in Budapest, Hungary [Al Jazeera]

However that request for assistance on a chilly December night time would ultimately unravel a prison conspiracy that reaches the very best political workplace in Bangladesh and led a younger man to take a danger that has left him fearing for his life. Sami agreed to assist, but it surely was solely a matter of time earlier than he would uncover the damaging secret that Mohammad Hasan was actually Haris Ahmed, a gangster on the run with extra energy and cash than Sami may think about.

Within the months that adopted, Sami was despatched authorized paperwork and papers from officers underneath Aziz Ahmed’s command within the BGB. They had been stamped, signed and witnessed by officers from the Ministry of Overseas Affairs, financial institution managers, attorneys and consulate workers in Bangladesh and India. It was an elaborate paper chain of fraudulent paperwork that remodeled Haris Ahmed into Mohammad Hasan.

If my brother has to return, individuals accountable will repent.

Normal Aziz Ahmed

The subterfuge was on a formidable scale. How far again do it’s good to go to create a false identification for a infamous prison? The person charged with guarding a nation’s borders, Normal Aziz, knew the reply; it’s a must to return to the start and it’s good to know the precise individuals to get you there.

In the midst of investigating this story, Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit obtained greater than 50 paperwork that turned the constructing blocks of Haris’s new identification: faux beginning certificates, faux marriage certificates, faux diploma papers, faux financial institution accounts, faux police studies, faux signatures attested by attorneys and, in fact, an important faux doc of all, a passport.

Haris Ahmed’s faux passport, which makes use of the title Mohammad Hasan [Al Jazeera]

Armed with a raft of cast paperwork, the newly created Mohammad Hasan, with shut help from his brother, the overall, moved swiftly to create or purchase stakes in firms in Hungary – Bay of Bengal Kft, Taylorville Kft and briefly Consultech Europe Kft – which may personal property, run eating places, import and export items and even arrange a cash alternate kiosk for vacationers.

Now Haris needed to deal with massive sums of cash being channelled into Europe from Bangladesh. He needed to maintain transferring, maintain shopping for property and companies and maintain creating methods to cover lots of of 1000’s of {dollars}. France was his subsequent goal the place, utilizing his faux identification, he purchased a stake in 5 firms and bought a home in Paris. The selection of firm names had a well-recognized ring; Bay of Bengal, Information Bay of Bengal in addition to Snigdha. For a short time, he additionally owned TPTY and MHPB Holdings. On the registered deal with of considered one of his firms is a retailer providing worldwide cash transfers.

An undercover supply

Sami had helped “Mohammad Hasan” in Hungary however there was rising strain from an more and more pissed off Normal Aziz who began sending a stream of emails and texts to Budapest. He was fearful that “Hasan” was not making his new life and would ultimately must return to Bangladesh. The tone turned threatening and darkish. By the summer time of 2016 Sami sensed hazard. “If my brother has to return, individuals accountable will repent. They may curse their life, I promise,” the overall wrote.

Sami needed to seek out out extra about “Mohammad Hasan” and determined to make use of his contacts within the Bangladesh military who advised him to look no additional than Interpol’s Purple Discover listing, an digital bulletin board for the world’s most harmful criminals. Sort in nationality – Bangladesh, title, Haris Ahmed and hit return.

Staring again at him was a pale black and white picture of “Mohammad Hasan” – youthful, heavier and rougher-looking however unmistakably the identical man. It was the convicted killer, Haris Ahmed.

Sami was in too deep and determined the one technique to break away from the highly effective Ahmed clan was to go deeper nonetheless and expose their prison community. He had seen sufficient to know that Haris had highly effective hyperlinks in Hungary. It was then that Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit gained a brand new asset, an undercover supply who would assist reveal the complete scale of the Ahmed clan’s dealings.

Sami organized a enterprise assembly for Mohammad Hasan at a lodge alongside the river Danube. The lodge workers laid out the chief breakfast of recent fruit, espresso, pastries and orange juice within the enterprise suite. Three males in good suites got here to consideration as a laptop computer sprang into life – a Skype name was incoming from London and with it got here the opportunity of big income from a land deal in Bangladesh.

My gangsters are RAB. I don’t want thugs, these are my thugs

Haris Ahmed

It was a sting. Sami had launched Haris Ahmed and his enterprise affiliate, Mohammed Rahman, to a fictional investor who mentioned he needed to construct a multimillion-dollar lodge in Bangladesh. The Investigative Unit had set your entire assembly as much as learn how Haris was making a living.

Haris fiercely scribbled numbers on a word pad whereas Rahman, who brokers citizenship-by-investment passports to Canada and elsewhere for rich Bangladeshis, obtained all the way down to enterprise. There was good cash to be made and no time to waste.

“To do one thing in Bangladesh is a very nice concept, however there’s some issues as a result of nonetheless there’s political points and just a little little bit of corruption,” he advised the faux investor. “However a very good factor for Mr Hasan, as a result of he’s very nicely linked with excessive officers, very linked with the federal government, particularly the prime minister herself likes him very a lot.”

Hidden cameras recorded the scene as Haris Ahmed turned extra animated. As hundreds of thousands of {dollars} had been mentioned he reached for his gold-coloured cell phone and thrust it on the laptop computer digicam. On the telephone was a photograph of himself with Normal Aziz in full army uniform greeting overseas dignitaries. Rahman defined Haris’s spontaneous act, gesturing on the image. “Principally at this second, his elder brother is operating the nation in actual fact, as a result of our prime minister leaves all the things to (the) military chief to run the nation for the large developments.”

Rahman and Haris went on to vow entry to the very best officers in Bangladesh, from the banks to the ministries and from the army chiefs to the prime minister herself.

Over the next weeks, Sami continued to function as our undercover investigator, probing Haris for extra details about the supply of his wealth. In our secret recordings, Haris claimed that he had been given the complete help of Sheikh Hasina to revenue from any Bangladesh authorities contracts in Europe, be they for army bunk beds, bullets or surgical masks. He relayed to our hidden microphones how he may make cash from army postings, from fixing courtroom proceedings or from utilizing the notorious RAB to extort cash from businessmen.

Haris mentioned he pays bribes to each the pinnacle of the RAB and the nation’s strongest policemen. “My gangsters are RAB,” he advised Sami. “I don’t want thugs, these are my thugs. They choose somebody up and detain them. They make cash. I make cash. It’s a simple deal.”

Haris Ahmed, Aziz Ahmed and several other overseas dignitaries [Al Jazeera]

Shows of energy and acts of defiance

However what of the broader Ahmed clan? After months of monitoring Haris Ahmed, we had been tipped off that Normal Aziz might be assembly the opposite brothers for a get-together within the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

The tannoy system at Kuala Lumpur Worldwide airport echoed across the arrivals corridor as passengers peered anxiously, on the lookout for associates or family members. Among the many jostling crowds stood two males, cellphones clutched to their ears, ready and watching for somebody to return by way of customs. Haris and Joseph Ahmed had been to be the reception celebration for his or her brother, Normal Aziz.

An information search had additionally revealed an deal with. A land registry reveals that a big gated home had been bought by Mohammad Hasan and Anis Ahmed, the remaining brother who absconded in 2007 and has not been seen publicly since.

Deed displaying Anis and Haris – underneath the faux title Mohammad Hasan – purchased a plot in Malaysia [Al Jazeera]

As the sunshine started to fail a small convoy of vehicles, two bearing diplomatic plates, swept as much as the doorway of a giant gated home in central Kuala Lumpur. Normal Aziz, with Josef alongside, stepped briskly into the moist. From behind the gates, Anis Ahmed emerged from the shadows. The Investigative Unit had tracked down the ultimate lacking brother.

The next day, underneath the duvet of a stormy night time, we watched because the Ahmed clan, escorted by a diplomatic convoy, had been ushered by way of the safety gates of the close by Excessive Fee of Bangladesh for the night.

Every week earlier, in March 2019, a society wedding ceremony had taken place in Dhaka for the oldest son of Normal Aziz. It was a lavish occasion held over a number of days, with 1000’s of company entertained by army bands at an unique military membership. The Investigative Unit was in a position to acquire a number of images secretly taken throughout the celebrations.

Haris Ahmed, left, Aziz Ahmed, centre, and President Mohammed Abdul Hameed, proper [Al Jazeera]

It was a unprecedented show of wealth and energy. It was a good bolder act of public defiance. The 4 Ahmed brothers, two of whom had been criminals on the run, had been paraded earlier than the political and army elite of Bangladesh. The visitor of honour was the president of Bangladesh, Mohammed Abdul Hameed.

It has been an extended journey for the Ahmed household however they’ve lastly arrived. From being a small-time mafia on the damaging streets of Mohammadpur, the clan now has a agency grip on the establishments of the state in Bangladesh.

The Investigative Unit contacted all these concerned – together with Bangladesh’s prime minister, president, the then-head of the RAB, Mohammed Rahman, and all 4 Ahmed brothers – inviting them to answer its findings. None offered a response earlier than the discharge of the investigation.

After the discharge of the investigation, Bangladesh’s Ministry of Overseas Affairs issued an announcement describing the Investigative Unit’s findings as a “smear marketing campaign” orchestrated by opponents of the regime primarily based overseas.

It dismissed statements made by Haris, the brother of Bangladesh’s chief of military workers, as baseless and mentioned Haris Ahmed had no hyperlinks to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina or every other state establishment.

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