Kuwait: Bangladeshi lawmaker MP Shahid Islam sent to jail
Bangladeshi lawmaker Mohammed Shahid Islam, arrested in Kuwait by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the country, was taken to jail late on Sunday, according to sources at Bangladesh’s embassy in Kuwait.
Kuwait earlier froze the bank accounts of Shahid and his company following his arrest on charges of human trafficking and money laundering. Shahid holds about five million Kuwaiti dinars, or Tk 1.38 billion, in those accounts.Mohammad Shahid Islam and another accused, taken into custody
The move aims to stop Shahid from withdrawing or transferring money from these accounts from which funds will be confiscated if the charges are proved in court, prosecutors said.
Mohammad Shahid Islam and another accused, taken into custody, to be jailed for 21 days in the central prison, Kuwait media reported.
Having travelled to Kuwait as a migrant worker, Shahid now has permanent resident status and runs his own business there. His wife Salina Islam is also an MP in Bangladesh from a seat reserved for women.
The prosecution brought the charges against Shahid after hearing testimonies of five Bangladeshi workers. They claimed to have paid up to 3,000 dinars in exchange for being brought to Kuwait. They were also paying annual sums to renew their residency visas.
The Bangladeshi witnesses the MP was like a “mafia boss who demanded ‘taxes’ from poor, low-income workers
Islam, an independent member of Bangladesh’s parliament, was arrested at his residence in Mushrif, Kuwait City, around 9:30 p.m. local time on Saturday.
“The judicial authority of Kuwait denied Islam’s bail petition when he applied for it on Sunday afternoon, and subsequently he was sent to jail,” the official said.
S.M. Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s ambassador to Kuwait, said the mission authorities were still unsure of the charges leveled against Islam.
“I was informed about the arrest of the Bangladeshi parliamentarian on Saturday night by one of his brothers who resides in Kuwait. We wrote a letter to Kuwaiti authorities to update us about the charges against Islam. However, we are yet to receive any reply,” Kalam said.
Due to the coronavirus disease pandemic, most institutions in Kuwait are closed, which may cause delays in the exchange of information, the envoy said.
“In such a situation, the law will take its own course, no matter who the person is. But as of today, we don’t have much information in hand about the arrest. We are very much concerned about the news since he is a lawmaker of the country,” F. M. Borhan Uddin, director general of the Middle East wing of Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry, said.
“Currently, we are not sure in which direction the situation is moving regarding the arrest of the parliamentarian,” Borhan Uddin added.
Islam’s arrest in Kuwait created concern among his peers in Bangladesh’s parliament.
“On grounds of involvement in immoral activities, if he is convicted by the court (and sentenced to) at least 2 years of imprisonment, the lawmaker will lose his position as a member of the parliament,” Fazle Rabbi Miah, deputy speaker of Bangladesh’s parliament, said.
However, he couldn’t be sure whether the allegations of human trafficking and money laundering would fall under the purview of “immoral” category or not.
Shahid is part of a three-member racket whose members include his wife.
It added that the trio occupied sensitive positions in three major companies that brought over 20,000 Bangladeshi workers into the country in exchange for large sums of money believed to be in excess of 50 million dinars, or $163 million.
Shahid reportedly channelled the money to the US to start a company in partnership with an American national, according to the report.
Shahid runs the Marafie Kuwaitia Group as managing director and CEO. He told investigators the company has about 9,000 employees and most of them are Bangladeshis. He also said the firm has agreements with 34 government agencies and institutions for recruitment.
A vice-chairman of NRB Commercial Bank, Shahid is also chairman of NRB Securities Exchange Company. He sits on the board of Crystal Energy Limited as a director.