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Jailer, 49 others involved in Chattogram jail corruption

Sohel Rana BiswasThe jailer of Chattogram central jail, Sohel Rana Biswas, is now himself in jail. In investigating corruption charges against him, the home ministry has found further evidence of corruption against 49 others, including a deputy inspector general (DIG), 2 senior jail superintendents and seven deputy jailers among others.

Several among them had already faced cases, transfers and other penalties for their past misdeeds. But, they simply resumed their corruption wherever they were posted.

On 26 October last year, the Chittagong prison jailer Sohel Rana was arrested from a Mymensingh-bound train in possession of around 4.44 million taka in cash, 25 million in FDR, 13 million taka in cash cheque and 12 bottles of phensydyl. He had been on his way to his home in the village.

The government’s inquiry committee, in investigating the matter, has stirred a hornet’s nest. The committee was headed by additional secretary of the home ministry’s security service division, Monirul Alam. The committee was given the responsibility to look into whether this money was the jailer’s own money or official funds, what the source of the money was if it was personal, and where and why was he carrying such a huge sum of money. Glitches in the Chattogram jail’s management were also under scrutiny.

The committee recently submitted its report to the directorate of prisons.

The report has stated that the money with Sohel which was confiscated by the Bhairab railway police was not official funds. The Tk 4.44 million was Sohel Rana’s ‘own’. Sohel Rana was also found to have misappropriated Tk 117,602 from various funds of the jail.

The committee found that many of those accused in this matter had been accused of irregularities in their other workplaces, too. After the arrest of Sohel Rana, the inquiry committee then found evidence against DIG at the time Partho Gopal Banik (presently posted in Sylhet) and senior jail superintendent Prasanta Kumar Banik (presently posted in Barishal). The committee has recommended that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) will investigate the matter of their illegally accumulated wealth.

The report revealed that the funds with Sohel Rana were to have been handed over to Partho Gopal Banik and Prasanta Kumar Banik in Dhaka. The two of them were supposed to have joined the jailer conference on 2 November at the Kasempur jail, according to various coded SMS messages exchanged with each other.

At the time, Partho Gopal Banik had been the DIG at Chittagong jail. He told Prothom Alo, “The investigations are against Sohel Rana and now we are being framed by him.” He said they were unwilling to respond to the matter as they had not received any official letter in this regard. He said this was a conspiracy against them.

Prasanta Kumar Banik took the same stance. While talking to Prothom Alo, he said, “When I took over as Chattogram jail super, a coordination committee was formed, headed by the home ministry’s security service division secretary. Irregularities in Chittagong jail were discussed, indicating that there had already been corruption there. The officer, who has replaced me there, himself had been transferred from Sylhet to Barishal on corruption charges. The committee should take all these discrepancies into cognizance.”

The accused
These involved in irregularities, corruption and negligence at Chattogram central jail include Partho Gopal Banik, Prasanta Kumar Banik, senior jail super Iqbal Kabir Chowdhury, Sohel Rana Biswas, deputy jailers Muhammad Munir Hossain, Md Fakhar Uddin, Md Atiqur Rahman, Muhammad Abdus Selim, Humayun Kabir Howladar, Manzurul Islam, Syed Jabed Hossain, assistant surgeon Md Mustafizur Rahman, pharmacist Ruhul Amin, Ramendu Majumdar Paul, employee Mazharul Huq and others.

The committee has recommended that departmental action be taken against them and they be transferred to districts of lesser importance.

The report
When he was with the prison directorate, Sohel Rana had faced six departmental cases and punishment, but his corruption did not halt.

The report said that senior jail super of Chittagong central at the time, Iqbal Kabir Chowdhury, was guilty of neglecting his duties. Also, during his term there from 27 October 2017 till 10 July 2018, around Tk 3.39 million was misappropriated from the jail.

Involved in this scam also were the accountant Emdadul, head of the audit team Abu Bakr Siddiqui and others. The committee has recommended departmental measures against them.

The canteen is the main source of corruption at the Chittagong central jail. Corruption also involves buying and selling convicts, arranging bail, seats, visits and meetings, etc.

It was said that around Tk 4 to 5 million was made through illegal deals in auctioning canteen duty to the jail guards. This money was distributed among the jailers, jail supers, DIG and their people. Food from the canteen was sold to the prisoners for cash and at inflated prices.

As to what action will be taken against those named in the inquiry report, additional inspector general of prisons Md Iqbal Hasan said, “We are taking action step by step in keeping with the recommendations. Some have already been transferred from Chittagong jail and action will also be taken in phases against the others.”