Police on Sunday arrested a racket of fraudsters who were engaged in awarding government projects to contractors by forging project documents after stealing them.
Spearheading the gang of con artists was Rezwan Hasnat Rijon, nephew of the wife of Disaster Management and Relief State Minister Dr Md Enamur Rahman.
Detectives, in a drive led by Additional Deputy Commissioner Bodruddoza Zillu, arrested Rijon and three others for their involvement in this scam from the Shyamoli and Mirpur areas of the capital.
The other three arrestees were Md Bismullah alias Hridoy, Rofiqul Islam and Rubel. Rijon is an Honours fourth-year student at ASA University.
Police produced the suspects before a Dhaka court, seeking a seven-day remand for each. The court is supposed to hear on the remand plea on Thursday.
On January 2, Sohrab Hossain, owner of the contracting firm Khan and Khan Enterprise, filed a case against the fraudsters who allegedly duped him after promising him a contract of the Ashrayan Project of the government.
An investigation by The Business Standard revealed the method in which Rijon and his gang committed the crime: At first, they would steal a project file and make a carbon copy of it. They would also forge signatures of the project director and other officials concerned.
Their counterfeiting skills were so good that the fake documents could not be differentiated from the original copies. The gang also forged the blueprints of an entire project.
After getting the fake work order of a particular project, when a contractor went to the disaster management department, they would realise that they had been conned.
But by then it would be too late as the fraudsters had run away with a large sum of their money.
From participating in a tender to availing a work order, the entire process was a sham.
However, Rijon was apparently following in his father footsteps, according to sources at the disaster management department. His father Shahadat Hossain also availed many government projects by exploiting the identity of his brother-in-law – State Minister Enamur Rahman.
When contacted, State Minister Dr Md Enamur Rahman told The Business Standard, "I have come to know of the matter. Rijon is my wife's nephew. He has committed many crimes using my name. I want exemplary punishment for him. It does not matter that he is my relative, he will not get any mercy."
Moshiur Rahman, deputy commissioner of Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said Rijon and his gang members had been cheating people by introducing himself as a relative of the state minister.
"The minister has no connection with the crimes," he added.
Other sources at the Detective Branch said they recovered both fake and original files of different projects from their possession. They had either stolen the files or someone from the department supplied them with those.
Police are currently investigating how Rijon and his gang got the files.
However, the Department of Disaster Management has not taken any action yet even after the incident came to light.
A source at the department said all the documents the Detective Branch obtained also include a paper signed by Additional Secretary Yusuf Ali, also the director of construction of the flood shelters project.
Rijon had access to the department and could freely move about there as he is the nephew of the state minister's wife.
A source at the department claimed he developed relations with the officials and staff of the department, because it was not possible for him to steal documents from the department without their assistance. Besides, they also helped him forge these documents, the source added.
Contractor Sohrab Hossain Khan said that he had contacted Rezwan Hasnat Rijon through one of his friends two months ago.
Rijon and Sohrab had reached a verbal agreement about getting contracts of development projects from the Department of Disaster Management on commission.
In line with the deal, Sohrab participated in a so-called tender and got a contract worth Tk3.10-crore to construct a flood shelter in Gazipur. He then signed a work agreement with Rijon in exchange for a large sum of money.
Later, Sohrab came to know that he did not get any work order from the department and that the work agreement, as well as the notification award for beginning the work, was fake.
He also understood all other documents he had been supplied with were not authentic. In the papers, all signatures by the project director and others involved in the project were also forged.
According to the case statement, Sohrab alleged that Rijon and his three associates provided him with a copy of the work order on the Gazipur flood shelter. They also asked him to send them Tk9.38 lakh in the first phase before beginning the work.
On November 25 last year, Sohrab met Rijon and his associates at a restaurant in Uttara Sector-13, Dhaka. They asked Sohrab to give them Tk6.30 lakh, but Sohrab gave them Tk2.80 lakh. They also took his signature on three stamp papers (each worth Tk100) and on six to seven pieces of blank paper. They promised to return those papers to him within three days.
On December 14, they sent Sohrab a message on WhatsApp, threatening him he would not get the work order and money he previously gave them if he failed to pay the secretary of the disaster management and relief ministry by 5pm on December 15.
On the night of December 14, Sohrab met them at the same Uttara restaurant and paid them an additional Tk3.50 lakh. They asked him to meet them by December 22 with all the necessary documents, including the draft design of the shelter.
Later, Rijon and his associates asked Sohrab to pay them an additional Tk3.50 lakh. Rijon then demanded Tk5.50 lakh more, which made Sohrab doubtful.
Meanwhile, two people involved in making fake seals confessed before the court that Rijon had gotten several seals prepared by them.
Mainul Haque, one of the seal makers, said that one-and-a-half months ago, Rijon came to him and identified himself as an official of the Department of Disaster Management. He then got Mainul to prepare some seals for him.