With investigations into human trafficking charges against lawmaker Md Shahid Islam alias Kazi Papul almost over, the Kuwait authorities are now focusing on charges against him of money laundering and bribery aimed at managing some Kuwaiti officials.
The Bangladeshi parliamentarian will remain in prison on human trafficking, visa trading and money laundering charges until the investigations are over.
The prosecution department of Kuwait had granted his remand for ten days in two phases for interrogations to be carried out by the Criminal Investigation Department of the country.
Later on June 12, Papul was again produced in court and the prosecution was granted 21 more days in detention in the interest of further investigations into money laundering charges and bribery to manage Kuwaiti officials against him.
Thus the Bangladeshi lawmaker will remain in prison until July 2, when the prosecution will decide whether or not he will be granted bail.
Since his arrest, Papul has been in Mushref prison, from where, twice or thrice a week, he is taken to the detention centre of CID for thorough investigation.
SM Abul Kalam, Bangladesh's ambassador in Kuwait, confirmed the matter unofficially and claimed that the mission was yet to receive any official reply to its queries on the issue from the Kuwaiti authorities.
"What we know about the lawmaker is all unofficial. Both the interior and exterior ministries of Kuwait are yet to send us any official reply," he added.
Ataul Gani, general secretary of Awami League Kuwait chapter, told The Business Standard that the Kuwaiti authorities had also interrogated some Bangladeshi community leaders about Papul's human trafficking activities and asked them for further information.
"So, he will be in prison until the investigation is done," he added.
Meanwhile, Papul's lawyer Nasser Al-Hasban demanded the release of Papul under any condition, saying, "He is an MP in his country and will not flee in light of the current conditions."
In a conversation with this correspondent, Kazi Papul's wife and reserved seat MP Salina Islam denied the allegations against her husband and claimed that he would be cleared of all charges within a few days.
"It is a conspiracy. The vested group working against him will not succeed and the truth will soon come," she added.
Kuwait's public prosecution is continuing its marathon investigation into the case of the Bangladeshi lawmaker, taken into custody on charges of human trafficking and money laundering, as reported by the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Qabas.
A source familiar with the investigations told Al Qabas that two of the accused had been issued with warrants of arrest, but they had so far evaded being nabbed.
The source said one of them, a Kuwaiti official, had obtained a cheque for the amount of one million dinars ($3.25 million), through his dealings with the Bangladeshi lawmaker, to employ Bangladeshi workers in government agencies. "Therefore, it is paramount for prosecutors to know the details of these transactions," the source said.
The source pointed out that the public prosecution had seized documents and contracts from within the Bangladeshi MP's company, under a pre-judgement attachment, since June 6.
A document showed 600,000 Kuwaiti dinars ($1.95 million) said to have been obtained by an agent of a businessman without knowing the reason and without an agreement between him and the Bangladeshi member of Parliament.
The accused runs the Marafie Kuwaitia Group as managing director and chief executive officer.
Mohammad Shahid Islam holds 5 million Kuwaiti dinars ($16.25 million) in assets in Kuwait.
Sources close to the investigation told Al Qabas that the Kuwaiti authorities had clamped a freeze on the bank accounts of the Bangladeshi lawmaker and his company.
They said freezing of assets is part of a legal measure to prevent the lawmaker from moving his assets beyond the jurisdiction of a court in Kuwait.
More arrest warrants likely
Sources said the number of Kuwaiti officials under investigation has risen to seven.
Witnesses had earlier said Papul would act like a mafia boss, demanding 'taxes' from the poor and low-income workers, Al Rais reported.
"The accused's men imposed a 'royalty' on workers, at a value of eight dinars per day," a witness said.
Witnesses provided a rare glimpse into the Bangladeshi MP's grip on Bangladeshi workers in Kuwait.
During interrogation, Papul reportedly confessed to have provided 1.1 million dinars by cheques to an official at the interior ministry, one million dinars in cash to another official, in addition to "bags" of millions of dinars in cash to a third official, Kuwaiti media reported.
Maryam Al Aqeel, Kuwait's minister for social affairs and minister of state for economic affairs, has ordered the suspension of a senior official in the Public Manpower Authority for three months, at the request of the public prosecution, regarding an investigation conducted against Papul for his alleged involvement in human trafficking.
Trading in work permits
Prosecutors heard testimonies from scores of workers who had been brought into Kuwait by the accused from Bangladesh in exchange of money. Papul has also been accused of trading in work visas and siphoning off money to the United States.
According to Al Qabas, the suspect is part of a three-member racket whose other members include another Bangladeshi MP, whose wife is also an MP from a seat reserved for women.
The Al Qabas report added that the trio occupied sensitive positions in three major companies that brought over 20,000 Bangladeshi workers to Kuwait in exchange for more than 50 million dinars ($163 million).