It is the religious sentiment the con man found as a safe bet to trap people into believing his fraud scheme.
From devout common people, to imams of mosques, to those engaged in religious organisations, all were his targets. He defrauded them "a large amount of money" on the pretext of running his multi-level-marketing business "under the Shariah law", said law enforcers.
A native of Pirojpur, the fraudster Ragib Ahsan, chairman of "Ehsan Group Pirojpur-Bangladesh", along with his younger brother and accomplice, was arrested by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) on Thursday on charges of swindling Tk17,000 crore.
RAB Spokesperson Commander Khandaker Al Moin told the media on Friday that Ragib Ahsan used to trap people by abusing religious sentiment and fervor.
"He would target religious-minded people, madrasa teachers and imams," said the RAB official.
In 2008, Ragib, who worked as a madrasa teacher and also an imam, started his MLM business and set up Ehsan Real Estate and Builders Limited. Later, he launched some 17 companies under the group.
While apprehending him along with his brother from the capital's Topkhana area, the RAB-10 team seized only Tk2,500 in cash, four voucher pads and two low-priced smartphones, according to the RAB intelligence wing.
Asked about the whereabouts of such a large amount allegedly swindled by Ragib and his men, RAB said they now have no information on it and that the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) will look into it.
Referring to the victims, RAB said Ragib bought land and properties in different parts of the country under his companies and family members with the money he had collected from people in the name of MLM business.
On 5 September, a press conference at the National Press Club claimed that Ragib and his family had swindled Tk17,000 crore out of common people.
Ragib in a primary grilling admitted to misappropriating Tk110 crore from people, the RAB said.
Mawlana Ali Akbar, a construction item trader in Pirojpur town, invested in Ehsan Group in 2012 – attracted by the offer of Tk1,800 per month in profit per Tk1 lakh. Later, he expanded the investment in phases to Tk2.25 crore until 2018, said his son Saifullah.
"The monthly payments were almost okay in the first two-three years. But it started to decline from 2015, and totally stopped in 2018," he added.
RAB said Ragib lured his "targets" by campaigning "sharia-based investments". He also used to sponsor religious gatherings for marketing.
According to the elite battalion of police, Ragib managed to collect 10,000 clients by 2008 that has now crossed the one lakh-mark.
Referring to Ragib's primary interrogation, RAB further said Ehsan Group has around 300 field-level staffers who are tasked with collecting customers.
RAB said the staffers do not get a monthly salary, rather they get 20% commission for the investment they collect.
"He scammed all of the employees, customers as well," said RAB.
Some victims had lodged complaints with police and other law enforcement agencies, the RAB said.
The RAB spokesperson said in 2019, Ragib was jailed in a fraud case. They have come to know about 16 cases filed against him across the country. Since 2019, he has been on the run for not being able to pay back customers' money plus profits.
The Pirojpur superintendent of police said they are aware of only two cases though RAB claimed 16 lawsuits against the group chairman. He said the investigation officer of the cases had already left Pirojpur for Dhaka to bring the accused into their custody.
Commander Khandaker Al Moin said, "We have learned that Ehsan Group collected money from all over the country but the company was mainly based in Pirojpur. Ragib set up about 17 companies there and 16 are now closed."
During the preliminary interrogation, Ragib said he has some establishments and land under the name of Ehsan Real Estate, his only company now in operation, the RAB spokesperson said.
The RAB also said in recent times, the people who were duped into investing in Ragib's MLM company staged protest rallies and press conferences in several districts, including Dhaka, Narayanganj, Sylhet and Pirojpur.
A sufferer named Maulana Harun-ar-Rashid along with 1,200 others like him formed a platform in an effort to recover their money.
Harun told TBS that Ragib and his family live in a luxurious house at Noor Medina Bhaban in Pirojpur city.
His brother Maulana Abul Bashar and his wife, and father-in-law bought land and flats in Dhaka, said Harun.
"We have collected documents of his land purchases in Dhaka's Savar and Narayanganj," Harun added.
Asked about the embezzlement of Tk17,000 crore, he said, "I think it will be much more.
"We have compiled a list of 1,200 field workers through whom we have collected documents about deposits of Tk2,300-Tk2,400 crore. Besides, there are many who invested big amounts."