Two fugitive brothers have fled the country in cinematic style after taking permission from agencies of the government.
The two men, Ron Haque Sikder and Dipu Haque Sikder, who are directors of the Sikder Group and accused of attempting to kill two Exim Bank top officials by shooting over a loan approval, flew out of the country in an air ambulance on May 25 through the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
They fled even as police were on the hunt for them, and before fleeing, they even obtained permission from the law enforcement agencies to leave the country.
How they managed to escape
Ron and Dipu escaped on the pretext of medical evacuation.
Two recommendations – one from a local medical centre and another from a foreign one – are required prior to obtaining permission from the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) for the use of an air ambulance.
In this case, ZH Sikder Women's Medical College and Hospital, owned by the Sikder Group, recommended emergency health checkups in Thailand for the two brothers. For its part, Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok recommended their admission.
Upon receiving recommendations from the two hospitals, the civil aviation authorities permitted medical evacuation for them through the use of an air ambulance of R&R Aviation Limited, a sister concern of the Sikder Group.
Government agencies, meanwhile, are now pointing fingers at one another over the escape of the two fugitives.
'Checking passenger's criminal record not CAAB's duty'
"We gave permission for medical evacuation based on the health recommendations from the hospitals," said CAAB Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mofidur Rahman.
"It is not for us to check passengers' criminal records. If they have any such record, immigration officials will stop them," he added.
When the permission was given for medical evacuation, a letter was sent about the passengers to all security agencies such as National Security Intelligence (NSI), Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) and police, he said.
What immigration says
"We block the name of a passenger at immigration whenever we get instructions from any government agency," said a top official at the immigration, seeking anonymity.
He said, "No such instruction came to us till May 29 regarding the two Sikder Group directors."
What police say
Kamruzzaman, officer-in-charge of Gulshan Police Station, told The Business Standard, "We know that all operations of the airport remain closed because of the shutdown. That is why we did not inform the immigration police and other authorities concerned about them."
He added that police had raided the office and residence of the two men several times after the filing of a case against them. The two brothers had been on the run since the incident involving them took place.
When asked if he had been informed about the fleeing of the two fugitives, OC Kamruzzaman said, "We have no information about it."
The two brothers – Ron Haque Sikder and Dipu Haque Sikder – came under widespread discussion when the Exim Bank authorities sued them for allegedly trying to kill Exim Bank's Managing Director (MD) Mohammad Haider Ali Mia and Additional MD Mohammad Firoz Hossain by shooting them over issues related to a Tk500 crore loan.
According to the case statement filed with Gulshan police station on May 19, the Sikder Group applied for Tk500 crore sometime ago, and to discuss it, Ron Haque Sikder and National Bank Managing Director Mostak Ahmed went to the head office of Exim Bank on May 7.
They took the MD and the additional MD of Exim Bank to the site of the Sikder Group directors' mortgaged property – Adi Nawab Askari Jute Mills in Rupganj – to inspect it against the loan.
During the visit, the Exim Bank officials found the mortgage value of the property as security to be less than what had been shown in the documents.
Later, Ron asked them to visit another property, Icon Tower in Purbachal.
As the Exim Bank's MD had a scheduled meeting with the Bangladesh Bank on the day, he was in a hurry. Still, the two officials observed the project from outside at Ron's request.
While they were returning, they spotted Ron and the National Bank MD on 300 Feet Road and they stopped their car.
The National Bank MD told the Exim Bank officials that Ron was very upset as they had not visited Icon Tower.
At one stage, Ron shot at the Exim Bank MD. The bullet narrowly missed the MD. When Ron was about to shoot again, the Exim Bank MD took shelter behind the car, according to the case statement.
Later, a security guard forcibly took them, at gunpoint, to Sikder House at Banani, where Ron and his brother allegedly forced the victims to sign a paper agreeing that everything was all right with the project. They compelled the additional MD to affix his signature to the paper as a witness.