Leader of Bangladesh ruling party held in crackdown on graft

Updated October 07, 2019

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Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) escort ruling party leader Ismail Hossain Samrat following his arrest in Dhaka on October 6. — AFP
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) escort ruling party leader Ismail Hossain Samrat following his arrest in Dhaka on October 6. — AFP

DHAKA: A prominent Bangladesh ruling party politician with alleged links to the capital’s underworld was arrested on Sunday in a sweeping anti-graft drive championed by the prime minister, amid corruption accusations against her government.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last month launched the crackdown, saying it was necessary to prevent a repeat of the January 2007 coup by the powerful military, which said tackling corruption was one of its key goals.

The high-profile head of the Dhaka youth wing of Hasina’s Awami League party, Ismail Hossain Samrat, was arrested with one of his associates, Bangladesh’s elite security force said.

PM says drive necessary to prevent a repeat of the 2007 military coup

“Samrat was arrested over concrete charges,” the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) spokesman Mizanur Rahman Bhuiyan said, but he did not reveal what the politician was accused of doing.

“He has been linked with operating casinos in sports clubs in Dhaka,” a senior RAB officer said on condition of anonymity.

Local media alleges that Samrat is an underworld kingpin who uses his political influence to run a network of illegal casinos and extortion rackets.

He is the most senior politician to be caught in the new graft dragnet, which has also nabbed 260 others — including at least three ruling party officials. As part of the drive, security forces have also sealed off nearly a dozen illegal casinos in the capital.

Gambling is illegal in the conservative Muslim-majority country, but gangsters are accused of introducing casino equipment such as gaming tables in some well-known sports clubs.

Immediately after his arrest, the youth wing of the ruling party expelled him for anti-social activities and breaching party discipline. The government banned him from travel last month.

Last month, Hasina sacked two senior members of the powerful student wing of her party after they were accused of extorting large sums from a state-run university.

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2019