Dhaka 7 lawmaker Haji Salim's son Erfan Salim set up a high-tech control room on the rooftop of Madina Ashik Tower in Chawkbazar to run an extortion ring, conduct his political reign and run activities of illegal occupation in Old Dhaka dodging the law's eye.
Not only that, he also formed an armed cadre to protect his "empire" and create fear among the people. Inside the control room he had a mini bar and a torture cell too.
The control room had a server system as well as a Very High Frequency Device (VHF) and 35 walkie-talkies through which Erfan – who is also a son-in-law of Awami League's Noakhali 4 lawmaker Mohammed Ekramul Karim Chowdhury – used to communicate with his cadres within a four-kilometer area.
Before his election as a councillor of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), Erfan built the control room on the 17th floor of the tower. He had his political office in the same tower, according to Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) sources.
Because of the VHF technology, law enforcement agencies were unable to discern their communication. All these setups were brought in illegally from abroad, sources also said.
RAB busted Erfan Salim's 12-member cadre, of which Madina Group's protocol officer Zahidul Islam, arrested along with Erfan over assaulting a Navy officer and his wife on Sunday, was a member.
Additionally, Haji Salim's family has 35 paid cadres to control their "empire," said RAB officials.
While drunk, Erfan and his armed cohorts patrolled different roads every day, including those of Old Dhaka, to showcase their political muscle power. Nobody spoke up in fear of the terror group, RAB officials also said.
RAB sources said they have discovered some documents that suggest lawmaker Haji Salim and his son used their cadres and local policemen to grab land.
A document shows the lawmaker and his councillor son had recently demolished a shop and occupied the land in the Moulvibazar area of Old Dhaka with the help of some police personnel from Chawkbazar Police Station, sources also said.
Later, the duo presented a gift to the officer-in-charge of the Chawkbazar police for his assistance in the illegal work.
However, Moudud Howlader, officer-in-charge of the Chawkbazar Police Station, denied the allegation and said, "I do not know anything about it nor was any police member present in the activity."
Two cases were filed against Erfan and his bodyguard Zahidul on Tuesday with Chawkbazar police on charges of carrying illegal firearms and possessing narcotics, said RAB spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ashique Billah.
Meanwhile, a team of Detective Branch (DB) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police arrested Erfan Salim's personal assistant AB Siddique Dipu from his Tangail home town in a case filed over assaulting the Navy official.
They arrested Dipu in Tangail early Tuesday, confirmed DB Additional Commissioner AKM Hafeez Akhter.
Dipu was brought to Dhaka later and produced before a Dhaka court with plea of a seven-day remand, the police official said. The court granted a three-day remand.
Erfan and Zahidul were also shown arrested in the naval officer's case with a seven-day remand plea for each.
The hearing on remand pleas against Erfan and Zahidul might take place on Wednesday, according to Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Court sources.
Lieutenant Wasif Ahmad of the Bangladesh Navy filed the case against Erfan at Dhanmondi Police Station on Sunday night against four named accused – Erfan, his bodyguard Zahidul, Dipu, driver Md Mizanur Rahman – and several unnamed accused.
Meanwhile, there is uncertainty in the public's mind as to whether the investigation into the case against councillor Erfan will be unbiased.
DMP Commissioner Mohammad Shafiqul Islam confirmed Erfan will not get any scope to influence the investigation.
"Any attempt to influence the investigation will be futile. We will finish it and submit the report shortly," he said.
According to a DSCC source, the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives on Tuesday suspended DSCC Councillor Erfan Salim.
The ministry took the decision under the Local Government (City Corporation) Act 2009, read a gazette notification.