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Intel agencies identify 500 extortion gangs in city

Published : 08 May 2022 10:48 PM

Despite repeated instructions from the home ministry and police high ups in combating extortionists, influential groups behind such extortions seem to be disregarding the warnings.

Allegations say that such organized groups were hugely engaged in extortions during the holy month of Ramadan. Even after Eid-ul Fitr shopping is over, some extortionists are continuing their misdeeds across the country.    

It is alleged that such criminals have beaten to death a businessman in Pahartali in  Chattogram for not paying extortion money on Saturday.

The victim was identified as Md Farid, 45. He ran a motor business at Pahartali Railway Colony. He was severely beaten near the Jamme Mosque  at Pahartali Railway Station.

According to the local police, Farid was conducting a carwash in Railway Colony.  Some locals demanded money from him in extortion.

As the local trader refused to pay extortions and threatened to file a criminal case against them, the extortionists beat him to death on Saturday. 

This is not an isolated incident. In most commercial areas, businessmen are forced to pay extortions in various forms regularly, a trader on condition of anonymity told this correspondent. 

Earlier intelligence agencies had prepared a list of names of such organized gangs of extortionists in 50 police stations in the capital Dhaka. According to the list, around 500 groups are involved in extortions across the capital Dhaka.

According to the intelligence report, an average of TK 50 lakh is being extorted every day. A big portion of the account of the extorted money is shared with their influential gang leaders. The rest goes to the pockets of the police, members of various organizations including journalists, local public representatives and political influentials.

According to the relevant sources, the report with the list of these active extortionists was sent to the Home Ministry through the police headquarters.

Talking to the media recently, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said, “Actually extortionists have no affiliation with any political party. They are simply criminals. Those who commit these misdeeds will be brought to books.”

“The law enforcement agencies have already been given strict instructions pointing to the activities of the extortionists,” he added.

Credible sources in police and traders said the money was withdrawn daily from various shops, including permanent shops and vendors and food stalls on the footpaths, illegal wheel-mounted food stalls and shopping malls. 

The amount of money differs on the basis of areas or category of business. Police use 'linemen' to extort money. It is alleged that local public representatives and some ruling party members also get a share of the extorted money on regular basis.

This correspondent had visited different areas of the capital including Mirpur, New Market, Gulistan and Gulshan DCC Shopping Market. During the visits, it was witnessed that shop owners, street vendors and shopping mall representatives paying extortion money.

The traders in those areas said that they are forced to pay extortion money if they are to continue the business. However, it is estimated that the amount mentioned in the police intelligence report does not match what the traders said. In reality, the amount of extorted money on daily basis is much higher than is estimated. 

About the extortion DMP Commissioner Shafiqul Islam vowed to take immediate action if any member of the police finds evidence of extortion.

“A strict instruction was given to the OCs of all the police stations,” he said adding that the police are working in the field to arrest the extortionists.

“No trader can be harassed. If anyone is a victim of harassment, they have been asked to lodge a complaint with the concerned police station,” the city police chief said.

Recently, the commerce minister also expressed concerns about extortion in transporting goods on the road. Due to such extortion, the prices of fish, vegetables and other imported products become costlier in Dhaka.

Sometimes, law enforcement forces conduct raids. They also arrest some of the low-level extortionists. However, they are usually released on bail soon. But extortion does not stop.