After around seven months of trial for human trafficking, a Kuwait court on Thursday sentenced Bangladeshi lawmaker Kazi Mohammad Shahid Islam alias Kazi Papul to four years in jail.
The criminal court headed by Counselor Abdullah Al-Othman handed down the verdict in a human trafficking case. It also fined Papul 1.9 million dinars or around Tk53 crore.
The Kuwait court also sentenced Major General Mazen Sheikh Mazem Al Jarrah, assistant under-secretary of the interior ministry in Kuwait, and another two Kuwaiti officials to four years of imprisonment.
Two Kuwaiti lawmakers – Saadoun Hammad and Salah Khorshid – who were also facing the trial for "taking bribes" from Kazi Papul have been acquitted in the final verdict.
Kuwait's prominent daily AlQabas and few other dailies published the news of the verdict.
Bangladesh Ambassador to Kuwait Major General Md Ashikuzzaman confirmed the news to The Business Standard.
However, Salina Islam, wife of Papul and also a lawmaker from a reserved seat for women, said she was unaware about the verdict.
"I'm trying to know the matter. Can you please call me later?" she told this correspondent.
Kazi Papul, an independent lawmaker from the Lakshmipur-2 constituency, was arrested in Kuwait on 6 June last year over allegations of human trafficking and illegal visa trade.
Based on the complaints from at least five Bangladeshi nationals who claimed to have been trafficked, the Kuwaiti prosecutors charged Papul with human trafficking, money laundering, bribing the Kuwaiti officials, illegal visa trade and torture on expatriates.
During the interrogation by the Kuwait Criminal Investigation Department, Kazi Papul confessed to bribing Kuwait officials, and his statement has been published by different media outlets.
The Kuwaiti authorities had earlier frozen his bank accounts and shut down all of his business enterprises including the Marafi Kuwatia Group. The Bangladeshi lawmaker was the managing director of the group.
Eminent lawyer and constitution expert Dr Shahdin Malik told The Business Standard that the imprisoned and convicted lawmaker is no longer eligible to stay a member of the parliament.
"The speaker may take the judicial notice of the fact of the conviction and declare the seat vacant according to the law," he added.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Criminal Investigation Department in Bangladesh also have opened several probes against Papul and his family members.
A Dhaka court recently ordered authorities concerned to confiscate all properties and to freeze 670 bank accounts of Papul and six others including his family members.
The other accused includes Papul's wife Selina Islam, their daughter Wafa Islam, and Papul's sister-in-law Jesmin Prodhan.
The ACC has appealed to the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) to freeze 613 bank accounts of the family while CID appealed with a court seeking to freeze 57 bank accounts.
The CID on 7 July 2020 filed a case against Papul on human trafficking charges.
Subsequently, the ACC launched a probe into the wealth of the lawmaker and his family.
On 11 November last year, the anti-graft watchdog sued Papul, his wife Salina Islam, daughter Wafa Islam and sister-in law Jesmin Pradhan, accusing them of money laundering and amassing illegal wealth.
On 22 December in the same year, the CID filed the second case accusing Papul, his daughter and sister-in-law of laundering money.
According to CID findings, Papul and his family members amassed over Tk355 crore and the money was transacted through around 526 accounts and Fixed Deposit Receipts (FDRs) of 13 banks.
The CID on Tuesday claimed to have concrete evidence of Tk38.22 crore laundered by Papul and said it was working to trace the flow of the rest of the money.
Meanwhile, the ACC case stated that even though Papul's sister-in-law Jesmin Pradhan has no source of income, she had 44 accounts in different banks. The NRB Commercial Bank alone has 34 FDRs in her name, with a total deposit of Tk2.31 crore.
Papul's wife Salina Islam MP and their daughter Wafa Islam are now in bail in the ACC case.
The High Court on Monday fixed 11 February for delivering a verdict on whether the bail plea documents of Papul's wife and daughter were forged.