Kuwait sends Bangladesh MP Shahid Islam to prison on charges of human trafficking, money laundering

The Kuwaiti attorney general decided to detain Bangladesh MP Mohammad Shahid Islam, nicknamed Papul, in the country’s central prison for a period of 21 days after interrogations of 17 days, according to an Arab Times report

Jun 25, 2020
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The Kuwaiti attorney general decided to detain Bangladesh MP Mohammad Shahid Islam, nicknamed Papul, in the country’s central prison for a period of 21 days after interrogations of 17 days, according to an Arab Times report.

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.

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.

The public prosecutor in Kuwait decided to continue the imprisonment of the remaining suspects.

Laxmipur-2 MP Shahid was arrested on Jun 8 in Kuwait’s Musharraf area. 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".

Shahid provided 1.1 million dinars ($3.58 million) by cheque to an official at Kuwait's Ministry of Interior, one million dinars ($3.25 million) in cash to another official, in addition to “bags” of millions of dinars in cash to a third official, Kuwaiti media reported.

The government later suspended a senior official in the Public Manpower Authority for three months, at the request of the Public Prosecution regarding the investigations conducted with him in the case of trafficking in persons.

Kuwaiti media also accused the Bangladeshi MP of trading visas and siphoning off money to the US.

According to Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas, 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.

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