Section of foreigners in Bangladesh involved in fraud

Over 10 rackets in operation, 100 arrested in recent months

Iqbal Mahmud | Published: 23:29, Aug 22,2020 | Updated: 16:04, Aug 23,2020


A section of foreigners in Bangladesh, mostly from African countries, are involved in different crimes including online fraud and human trafficking with the help of local people.

Senior police officials said that nearly 100 foreigners were arrested for their involvement in different crimes in recent months and the number would be around a thousand in recent years.

Police could not provide any information of how many foreigners were staying illegally in Bangladesh, but a recent report of Transparency International Bangladesh stated that about 1.6 lakh foreign nationals were employed in Bangladesh after entering the country on tourist visas.

Dhaka University professor and criminologist Nehal Karim told New Age that the lack of concern and monitoring allowed these foreigners rackets to operate for years.

The government and law enforcement agencies do not have any information on how many foreigners are staying in the country legally or illegally, he said.

The rackets have been involved in different crimes and even staying in groups, but still many remain out of purview of the law, professor Nehal said.

RAB-4 officials Sajedur Rahman said that a section of foreigners were earlier involved in illegal VOIP business, forging banknotes and ATM cards.

Since law enforcement agencies have become more vigilant in checking such crimes, the foreigners’ rackets are more and more resorting to social media to defraud people and turn them into victims of trafficking, the officer added.

CID assistant superintendent Jisanul Haque told New Age that many foreigners come to Bangladesh as football players, readymade garment buyers and tourists and then get involved in various crimes.

These foreigners who are staying in Bangladesh illegally have formed rackets to carry out criminal activities and are getting desperate apparently in the absence of the proper surveillance by the law enforcers, experts believe.

Police officials said that many of the foreigners were found committing similar or other crimes after getting released from jail on bail.

Such crimes were recently highlighted as law enforcers busted a number of rackets involving foreigners who were defrauding social media users by luring them with expensive gifts.

DMP deputy commissioner for Gulshan division detective branch Moshiur Rahman told New Age that these rackets operate based on absolute fake information and credentials.

‘They operate based on fake social media accounts with fake identities, open bank accounts with fake details and approaches their target people posing as officials of organisations,’ said Moshiur.

The rackets commit crimes such as smuggling, ATM card forgery, producing fake US currency, murder, defrauding people through Facebook and mobile phone, arms trading and drug peddling.

Over 50 of these gang-members were arrested in several drivers of Criminal Investigation Departments of police, Rapid Action Battalion and Detectives in the capital in last two months.

CID data showed that they arrested over 40 foreigners, mostly Nigerian nationals, for different crimes, including running online gift fraud over the period.

The arrested foreigners hail from a number of countries — mainly from Nigeria, Cameron, Kenya and Libys — and many of them are overstaying their visas, said CID officers, who follow these rackets.

CID has traced over 10 such rackets while investigating over dozens of complaints by people, who were deceived by these impostors.

In one of a major raid, CID arrested 22 people, including 16 Nigerian citizens, for their alleged involvement in international credit card forgery and swindling money through social media.

Two weeks later, another CID team busted a gang of cheats and arrested 12 Nigerian citizens and a Bangladeshi woman from Pallabi area of the capital who used social media to cheat people.

RAB-4 assistant director Sajedur said that the racket members usually introduce themselves as US citizens on social media to cheat people and make friends. After communicating for few days, they lure the targets with the message promising to send expensive gifts for them.

After few days, the racket’s Bangladeshi members contact the people over phone claiming themselves to be customs officers. Through the calls the targets are informed that gift parcels are waiting for them at the airport and they need to pay necessary customs duties to get the parcels, otherwise they will be fined a huge amount of money.

Sajedur added that those who had fallen victims to such frauds sent money to different banks after talking to their foreign fraudster friends about the situation who would repeatedly assure them that lavish gifts were awaiting them.

Special Branch of police maintains statistics and database of foreign citizens, but officials of the agency were disinclined to share statistics with New Age on illegal foreigners living in the country, while Mazharul Islam, DIG of SB, could not be reached for comments.

A Transparency International Bangladesh report titled ‘Employment of foreigners in Bangladesh: Challenge of good governance and way to overcome’, in last February, stated that five to 10 lakh foreigners are staying in Bangladesh legally and illegally and about $3.1 billion or Tk 26,400 crore is being taken away every year by foreign nationals employed in the country.

RAB officials also said that they traced some foreigners working as members of human trafficking rackets in the country with the help of some local manpower recruiting agencies.

One such alleged trafficking racket chief Sameer Ahmed Omar Faraj, a Libyan national, along with five of his Bangladeshi associates, who are manpower exporters, were arrested in the capital in early August following raids by RAB.

RAB officer Sajedur told New Age that their investigations found that many of the foreigners from African countries enter Bangladesh via India and then discard their passports.

The rackets keep communicating among themselves and they also maintain contacts with lawyers so that in case of arrests they can easily get released, he said.

Want stories like this in your inbox?

Sign up to exclusive daily email