Thirty years ago, Monir Hossain was a mere salesman at a cloth store at Gauchhia Market in the capital.
A few years later, he went into the crockery business, behind which he began smuggling in electronic products.
Eventually, he got involved in gold trafficking. Monir had since never looked back . The golden touch of the precious metal turned him into a millionaire overnight, and he became known as "Golden Monir".
But as greed begets more greed, he turned his eyes to earning more. To do so, he formed his gang to grab lands and set up a strong syndicate in Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) to help him encroach upon lands.
In the meantime, Monir earned assets worth over Tk1,050 crore through illegal activities. He has 200 plots, a car showroom and shares in a renowned jewellery shop.
All these details of his black money and crimes came up at a RAB briefing following the arrest of "Golden Monir" after a 12-hour-long drive at his Merul Badda residence in Dhaka yesterday.
In front of the building, Lieutenant Colonel Ashik Billah, director (media wing) of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) briefed journalists.
In the drive, RAB seized an illegal foreign pistol, several rounds of bullets, foreign currencies of 10 countries worth Tk9 lakh, gold ornaments weighing 8kgs and Tk1 crore in cash.
The RAB team also seized five cars, including two luxurious ones worth Tk3 crore each, from his house and showroom.
Col Ashik Billah said they will file three cases under the arms act, narcotics control act and special power act against Monir.
Besides, RAB will request the National Board of Revenue (NBR), Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and police's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for carrying out a deeper investigation against him.
Monir used to smuggle gold on the Singapore-Dhaka-India route. He smuggled a huge amount of the yellowish metal into the country, said Col Ashik Billah.
A case was filed against him in connection with gold smuggling in 2007. He was also accused in multiple cases. Investigation into those cases has been going on, the RAB spokesperson revealed.
Monir became the owner of huge illegal wealth through dealings with corrupt officials of Rajuk. With their help, he owned 200 plots in the DIT project, Badda, Nikunja and Keraniganj areas, according to an intelligence report.
Ashik Billah said RAB is looking for those officials. "We will take actions once we find them."
Monir is also the owner of a vehicle showroom "Auto Car Selection" and has shares in a gold shop in the capital, said Ashik.
Local sources said Monir is active in politics of Jubo Dal – the youth front of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). His father, Siraj Uddin, was involved in BNP politics. Monir is also known as a financer to BNP.
Recently, he laundered a large sum of money to London, according to an intelligence report.
Responding to a query, Col Ashik said they have identified the political connection of Monir.
According to intelligence sources, Monir was scheduled to flee the country to Dubai on Saturday to avoid the arrest.
However, Rafi Hossain, son of Monir, said his father wanted to go to Dubai for treatment. He used to go there several times a year.
Rafi, however, did not specify his father's illness, claiming his father was a businessman and not involved in any crime.
Camouflage in the form of social work?
Local people said Monir has set up educational institutions and donated huge money to people to cover up his crimes. He built Siraj Memorial School and College at Merul Badda in 2015 after his father's name.
He allegedly has a 20-member force to operate in the DIT Project area for grabbing land and plots. Monir has at least 25 plots and flats in DIT Project most of which he had grabbed. Construction of 11 buildings in the DIT project area has been going on.
He is a leader of Baridhara Housing Society too, said local people.
Statement of jewellers' association
Bangladesh Jewellers Samity (Bajus) issued a press release following the arrest of Monir.
"Media mentioned Monir as a gold businessman. It tarnished our business image. Monir is not a gold businessman," read the release.
"Bajus does not allow such criminal activities by its members. We urge the media not to name Monir as a gold trader," it added.