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Former IGP on the run as human rights abuse allegations loom large!

Abdullah Yousuf, editor in chief.: Since its inception in April 2004, Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), a paramilitary force, has faced allegations of egregious human rights violations and abuse of authority. From 15 April 2020 to 30 September 2022, Benzir Ahmed held the position of Inspector General of Bangladesh Police, following his tenure as Director General

Abdullah Yousuf, editor in chief.: Since its inception in April 2004, Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), a paramilitary force, has faced allegations of egregious human rights violations and abuse of authority.

From 15 April 2020 to 30 September 2022, Benzir Ahmed held the position of Inspector General of Bangladesh Police, following his tenure as Director General of Rapid Action Battalion from 7 January 2015 to 14 April 2020. Regrettably, his leadership era marked a dark period characterized by widespread human rights abuses and rampant corruption within his department, earning it the notorious distinction of being the most corrupt in Bangladesh’s history. Ahmed’s allegiance seemed to way towards the authoritarian regime of Hasina Wazed, leading to allegations of state-sanctioned violence and extrajudicial killings. Under his command, numerous innocent individuals, including businessmen, politicians, and leaders, were unlawfully detained, with many never returning home alive. Tragically, the families of the victims often received only lifeless bodies, if they were fortunate. The majority of cases remained unresolved, with the victims disappearing without a trace. These egregious actions, extensively reported by human rights organizations, Media like Al Jazeera, drew international condemnation. The imposition of sanctions by the US Treasury Department on 10 December 2021 against Bangladesh’s elite paramilitary force, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), and several of its current and former officers, including Benazir Ahmed, further underscored the severity of the human rights violations committed under Ahmed’s leadership. This development has sparked significant outcry and concern within Bangladesh and beyond

He frequently travelled to various countries, purportedly to target opposition leaders, as evidenced by documented incidents. Benzir and his team of five young officers made multiple visits to Sydney, where they were accused of orchestrating schemes against the Freedom Party leader in Dee Why. Additionally, Benazir’s extensive property acquisitions, spanning locations such as Sydney, Melbourne, and the Gold Coast, raise questions about the financial capabilities of a mere Police Inspector General. How could he afford properties in Australia, Canada, UK, Turkey, Spain, and elsewhere on a modest salary?

It appears that the recently retired Inspector General of Police (IGP), Benazir Ahmed, possessed a modern-day equivalent of Aladdin’s Lamp (Magic Lamp), obtaining whatever he desired with a mere rub. During his tenure, this former chief law enforcement officer accrued substantial illicit wealth both domestically and internationally, leveraging his authority and influence in a manner reminiscent of the legendary lamp’s magical capabilities.

A recent investigation conducted & unveiled the extensive property portfolio of Benazir Ahmed, showcasing a range of assets including a tourism resort, stakes in a prestigious five-star hotel, luxurious apartments situated in upscale areas of Dhaka, and Units, farm house in located on the outskirts of Dhaka.

The vast extent of his property holdings appears grossly disproportionate to his official earnings, which reportedly amounted to Tk1.85 crore (Millions USA dollars) over his 34 years and seven months of service before retiring as the 30th Inspector General of Police (IGP), as per sources. In this narrative, we delve into the illicit wealth amassed by Benazir Ahmed across various regions of the country, including Dhaka, as uncovered in the investigation.

Benazir Ahmed constructed the Savanna Eco-Resort located in Bairagitol village, within the Sahapur union of Sadar upazila in Gopalganj district. This lavish tourism facility demands a considerable expense, with individuals required to pay BD Tk15, 000 for a single-night stay

The Savanna Eco-Resort offers a captivating blend of natural splendor and artisanal refinement, featuring 15 expansive ponds enclosed by protective walls. Its picturesque landscape is complemented by charming artificial water fountains and enchanting flashing lights, adding to the allure of this remarkable destination.

These architectural marvels are crafted by the talented hands of international artists. A charming pathway meanders from within the cottage to the tranquil ponds, allowing guests to traverse without touching the earth below.

A simple Google search for Sahapur leads straight to the picturesque Savanna Bangladesh Eco-Resort, which gracefully sprawls across a significant portion of this idyllic village.

Spanning across approximately 1,400 Bighas (1 bigha =0.619 acre) of land, the eco-resort emerges with its enchanting landscape featuring artificial hills and swimming pools, complete with simulated ocean waves. Adorning the grounds are over a thousand majestic Vietnamese coconut trees and a plethora of luscious fruit trees.

Moreover, guests can indulge in the resort’s grand concert hall, boasting state-of-the-art acoustics and a premium sound system, promising unforgettable auditory experiences.

According to resort officials, an estimated 5 million was invested in the construction of each cottage within the resort. To cater to the rising demand from couples seeking an idyllic retreat, the resort boasts over 50 charming cottages nestled within its grounds.

With the multitude of events hosted at the resort, a dedicated ‘special’ police outpost has been established adjacent to the premises to ensure utmost security. Additionally, over seven kilometers of well-paved roads have been meticulously constructed, funded by the government, to facilitate seamless travel for guests and visitors alike.

Notably, Zeeshan Mirza, Benazir’s wife, holds the position of chairperson, while their elder daughter, Farheen Rishta Binte Benazir, serves as the managing director, and their younger daughter, Tahseen Raisa Binte Benazir, acts as a director at Savanna Eco-Resort

In addition to the flourishing eco-resort, the once influential police officer has reportedly accumulated significant wealth under the names of his wife and two daughters. Media investigations have unearthed at least six companies registered in their names across various regions of the country.

All five of these companies are located within their district in Gopalganj, close to current PM Hasinas house. It’s speculated that the combined investment in these establishments situated in Bairagitol surpasses BD Tk 500 crore.

Upon investigation, it was uncovered that Benazir Ahmed possesses substantial wealth in upscale areas of the capital. Notably, he holds 2,00000 lakh shares in Le Meriden Dhaka hotel under the names of his two daughters, Farheen Rishta and Tahseen Raisa.

In Purbachal, Dhaka Benazir Ahmed constructed an opulent duplex villa sprawled across 40 kathas of land, valued at a minimum of BD Tk45 crore. Additionally, he acquired another 10 bighas of land in the vicinity, estimated to be worth Tk.22 crore (Several Millions US dollars).

The investigation revealed that Benazir Ahmed’s wealth is not held in his own name but rather in the names of his wife and two daughters. Significant investments have been made in various ventures including Savanna Farm Products, Savanna Agro Limited, Savanna Natural Park, Savanna Eco-Resort, and Savanna Country Club, all associated with Benazir Ahmed in Gopalganj, Bangladesh.

Zeeshan Mirza, Benazir’s wife, holds a 15% stake in best holdings, the parent company of Le Meridian, with his two daughters collectively owning an additional 10% of the company.

A document retrieved from the Directorate of joint venture firms revealed that Benazir Ahmed founded Savanna Agro in Gopalganj under the names of his wife and two daughters. Savanna Agro Limited, with an authorized capital of Tk 20 crore (Several Millions US dollars), is overseen by three directors.

Zeeshan Mirza, serving as the chairman, holds 10 shares in the company, while his eldest daughter, 29-year-old Farheen Rishta, equally holds the position of managing director with the same number of shares. Additionally, his younger daughter, 24-year-old Tahseen Raisa, serves as a director.

During a field investigation, it was discovered that despite having a nominal capital of BD Tk20 crore (Several Millions US dollars) on paper, Savanna Agro has expanded its business operations to encompass billions of taka.

Another enterprise within Benazir Ahmed’s family portfolio is Savanna Natural Park Private Limited. Records from the registrar of joint stock companies and firms indicate that the authorised capital of this company stands at BD Tk5 crore.

Similar to Savanna Agro, Savanna Natural Park is also owned by Benazir Ahmed’s wife and two daughters. In this venture, the wife serves as the chairwoman, while the daughters assume the roles of Managing Director and Director, respectively, each holding 100,000 shares, totaling 300,000 shares collectively. Benazir also holds investments in two luxury hotels, Best Western Premier and Hotel Ramada, located in Cox’s Bazar.

Investigations revealed that the park spans approximately 600 bighas of land, with an additional 800 bighas recently acquired for expansion, currently undergoing earth-filling operations.

Documentation obtained from the Directorate of joint venture companies and firms indicates that Savanna Agro’s registered address is 228/3, Sheikhpara Road, Dakshin Jatrabari, Dhaka. Further inquiry revealed that this address corresponds to Benazir’s in-laws’ residence.

In accordance with official records, Zeeshan Mirza, spouse of Benazir, entered the world on July 10, 1973. Their elder daughter graced the world with her presence on September 25, 1995, while the younger one followed suit on April 12, 2000. Interestingly, at the ages of 29 and 24 correspondingly, these two daughters find themselves in possession of significant assets valued in the hundreds of crores. These assets allegedly trace back to their father’s somewhat dubious streams of income, accrued during his tenure as a prominent police officer.

Benazir takes the helm as chairman in these business endeavors, which have been built upon substantial investments. This raises questions, considering his wife, Zeeshan Mirza, lacks any visible legitimate source of income. There’s little in Zeeshan’s familial history to suggest she could have accumulated such substantial wealth.

Likewise, although his elder daughter, Farheen Rishta, tied the knot on December 10, 2021, the younger daughter remains unwed. What’s noteworthy is that approximately 12 years prior to the elder daughter’s marriage, Benazir began acquiring land for several companies, eventually appointing her as Managing Director.

The investigative team embarked on a journey to Gopalganj in pursuit of Benazir’s amassed wealth. Locally dubbed as ‘Benazir’s Chawk,’ the Savanna Eco-Resort and Natural Park, nestled in the Bairagitol area, stands as a testament to his influence.

Throughout his tenures as the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and Director General of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Benazir orchestrated the acquisition of approximately 1,400 bighas of land, registering them under the names of his wife and two daughters. Remarkably, the acquisition cost for this extensive land ranged between BD Tk300, 000 to BD Tk800, 000 per bigha.

According to local reports, following the land acquisition, Benazir embarked on a transformative endeavors, filling at least 15 feet of it to create the foundation for the Savanna Eco-Resort, once a low-lying fish sanctuary.

On the surface, the resort boasts 15 meticulously crafted cottages, now open for rental to tourists. These cottages, tailored for couples, offer flexible rental options, ranging from day stays (morning to afternoon) priced between BD Tk5,000 to BD Tk8,000, evening to morning stays at the same rate, to 24-hour rentals ranging from BD Tk10,000 to BD Tk15,000. Resort officials emphasise that individuals of all ages are welcome to enjoy a stay without restrictions, including overnight accommodations.

Benazir’s vision for this luxurious retreat reflects the standards set by esteemed destinations in Thailand and the Western world, raising the bar for hospitality in the region.

It sounds like he has made a smart investment in the Concorde Hotel and Suites in Dubai. The location near key attractions like Dubai International Airport, Dubai Creek, and major shopping centres makes it a prime spot for both tourists and business travellers. This strategic positioning can attract a steady flow of guests looking for convenience and luxury during their stay in Dubai.

Regarding Benazir’s foreign investments, it has been discovered that former he made these investments abroad without obtaining permission from the Bangladesh Bank. None of his companies was authorised to invest overseas, indicating that he may have engaged in money laundering to invest in various foreign ventures.

Despite the brilliance of government electricity cables spanning several kilometers without pole support, their exposed nature poses safety concerns. However, amidst the lush landscape adorned with over a thousand Vietnamese coconut trees and various fruit trees, a swimming pool featuring artificial ocean waves enhances the allure of the setting.

To ensure security, a dedicated police outpost stands adjacent to the resort. Despite limited improvements in the communication infrastructure of the surrounding areas, the government has taken on the task of paving seven kilometers of roads to improve accessibility. Within the premises, meticulously crafted casting roads wind through the landscape, totaling approximately 30 kilometers in length. Locals have observed that even these internal roads of Benazir’s resort were constructed at government expense.

In a distressing narrative, the spectre of fear has coerced Hindus into relinquishing their land to former IGP Benazir. In the quaint village of Patikelbari in Gopalganj Sadar upazila, a cluster of shanty-like homes, inhabited by Hindus, stands as a testament to their plight. Accessible only by a makeshift bamboo bridge spanning a roadside canal, these rickety structures underscore the financial constraints of the approximately 100-strong Maitra family.

Meanwhile, a Dhaka court has issued orders for the seizure of eight additional flats, shares in garment factories, and other land properties linked to former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Benazir Ahmed, his wife Zeeshan Mirza, and their daughters. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has also identified further movable and immovable assets linked to the ex-IGP and his family.

In the latest development within the ongoing legal saga surrounding Benazir Ahmed’s alleged corruption, a Dhaka court, in a ruling directed the relevant authorities to seize these properties, which are scattered across three districts.

According to government records, Benazir Ahmed remains lauded as one of the top exemplars of “integrity” within the nation. During his tenure as the Inspector General of Police, he was honoured with an “integrity award” by the government, recognizing his steadfast commitment to ethics, integrity, and honesty. Notably, this accolade was bestowed upon him just six and a half months after the US imposed sanctions on Benazir Ahmed in December 2021, citing human rights violations. The government presented him with this prestigious award for the year 2020-21, with the ceremony taking place in June 2022.

However, it begs clarification on the government’s interpretation of “integrity.” According to official documents, integrity encompasses behavioural excellence rooted in ethics and honesty, along with a dedication to societal norms and ethics. On an individual level, it embodies dutifulness, honesty, and steadfast integrity.

Ironically, merely two years following the receipt of the “integrity” award, Benazir and his family clandestinely departed the country, amidst a storm of allegations implicating them in boundless corruption and abuse of power. Now that he has absconded, several government ministers are openly questioning his integrity, disavowing any governmental responsibility for his alleged transgressions. The pressing question now lingers: will the government, in adherence to its stance against corruption, take steps to revoke Benazir’s “integrity award”?

The perception of corruption within the Bangladesh government is a concern that many in the global community hold. The current Prime Minister, Hasina, has been accused of using the police force and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) to maintain her hold on power. It is believed that without the support of these forces, the ruling Awami League government would struggle to remain in control. The recent expulsion of corrupt leaders and ministers by Prime Minister Hasina has raised eyebrows and questions about the motives behind such actions.

It’s positive to hear that the Anti-Corruption Commission is taking action on the issue of potential illegal wealth acquisition through misuse of power. By investigating based on specific evidence, such as unauthorised foreign investments, the ACC aims to uphold transparency and integrity, holding individuals accountable for any unethical or unlawful activities related to their financial dealings. This proactive approach helps maintain trust and accountability within the financial system.

The underlying reason for the expulsion of these individuals can be attributed to internal power struggles and conflicts related to the sharing of money, wealth, and positions of influence among the government. The infighting among the Awami League members has led to tensions and power plays within the government. In this context, it is essential to consider the accountability of Prime Minister Hasina in the face of allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

Calls for justice and accountability have been raised, with some advocating for Prime Minister Hasina to face legal consequences for her actions. The suggestion of involving the International Criminal Court (ICC) in addressing these concerns has been put forth as a means to ensure a fair and impartial resolution. The need for transparency and adherence to the rule of law is paramount in addressing the complex dynamics within the Bangladeshi political landscape.

It’s important to distinguish between rumours and verified information. When it comes to serious allegations like arrest, custody, or legal proceedings, relying on concrete evidence is crucial before forming opinions or spreading information. It’s vital to approach such matters with caution and rely on verified sources to understand the actual situation accurately.

Discussing sensitive political issues and allegations should be done responsibly, ensuring that statements are based on facts rather than speculation. Upholding ethical standards in discourse helps maintain credibility and fosters informed discussions on important matters.

 

 

 

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