When two foreigners approached Md Samiur Rahman, a businessman in Dhaka, with a method of converting blank paper into dollars, he did not doubt them.
They had displayed how easy the procedure was and all that they needed were Bangladeshi Tk1,000 notes, the ink which would be used to convert the blank papers on to US dollars.
This scam started taking shape on June 12 this year, when two Cameroon citizens – Francis Duclair alias Donald and Alexandre Mafeja alias Alex – ran into Samiur’s cousin, Md Yeamin Khondokar, at the Narayanganj dockyard.
They asked Yeamin if he knew somebody with Tk22 lakh liquid cash to invest in a business venture.
Yeamin then referred them to Samiur, proprietor of Modern Concept and Technology in Dhanmondi.
“On June 18, both men met me at my Dhanmondi office, and informed me that they had brought $2 million into Bangladesh,” Samiur wrote in his complaint.
They claimed since the Bangladesh government permits bringing in $10,000 only at a time, they had disguised the rest as blank papers.
Now, all they needed was Tk1,000 notes to convert these dollars back to their original form. They then gave a demonstration using a “special machine” that they used to convert back the blank notes into dollars.
Samiur said: “They said they would need Tk22 lakh to convert the full amount. I even took the sample dollar they had converted and gotten it verified at a money exchange.”
Duclair and Mafeja had promised to give him a 5 percent commission on the converted $2 million, and also to return all the money Samiur would give them.
The following day, Samiur borrowed Tk12 lakh from his uncle, and then invited the men over.
Both foreigners collected the money and wrapped the bundles in foil paper and yellow tape. Then they put it in their “special machine”, which was basically a box, and connected it to a power source.
After a few minutes of theatrics that saw the machine emitting strobes of light and making strange sounds, they took out a bundle of blank notes out of the box. Duclair said they would use the colouring agents and chemicals extracted from the Tk1,000 notes on the blank ones after 24 hours.
“However, they instructed me not to open the [wrapped] bundle as it would damage the notes if opened before 24 hours,” Samiur explained.
When Samiur’s uncle asked for the money he had lent to him, Samiur opened the bundle the next day. “Instead of dollars, I just found a bundle of black paper.”
Samiur then contacted Duclair, who said he had been arrested by police. He asked him to contact their partner, Tchikamen Rodrigue alias Frank who “would complete the rest of the money conversion procedure.”
When contacted, Rodrigue met Samiur at his office on July 3. After examining the bundle, he said it had gone black due to an excessive use of chemicals.
“He said he would need an additional Tk10 lakh to fix it,” Samiur said.
On July 23, Samiur called Rodrigue and said he had arranged for the Tk10 lakh. In the meantime, he had informed RAB-4 of the scam. Later that day, Rodrigue showed up with the same money conversion machine.
A RAB investigation team led by Inspector Amir Ali arrested him at that point. Based on information revealed during initial interrogation, RAB then picked up his associate Dongmeza Ngueni from Kalachandpur in Gulshan and Mafeja from Bhatara.
Francis Duclair reportedly left Bangladesh via a Turkish Airways flight on July 2.
Police claimed they were members of an international crime syndicate whose main job was to scam people out of their money.
A case was filed with Hazaribagh police station. Metropolitan magistrate Ziaur Rahman has accepted a one-day remand for the three accused.
Md Samiur Rahman still has not recovered his uncle’s Tk12 lakh.