He has been under the scanner of Bangladesh government for his suspected involvement in human trafficking
Independent lawmaker Mohammad Shahid Islam, widely known as Kazi Papul, has been arrested by authorities in Kuwait on charges of human trafficking and money laundering.
The MP from Lakshmipur 2 constituency was arrested by the country’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) late on Saturday from his residence in Kuwait City.
The Bangladesh mission in Kuwait has reported the matter to the foreign ministry.
“The ambassador in Kuwait has informed me about the arrest in a case filed against his businesses in Kuwait. I have been told his business partner has already opened efforts to secure bail,” Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told the Dhaka Tribune on Sunday.
According to sources in the Bangladeshi community in Kuwait, the public prosecution department denied bail to Shahid and sent to him to custody.
His wife Salina Islam, who is an independent MP from women’s reserved seats, dismissed reports of the arrest as ‘rumours.’ “Some people are spreading this on social media,” she told the Dhaka Tribune.
Hours later in a statement, Salina, however, said that her husband was picked up by the investigators for "questioning", describing media reports as "misleading".
Earlier on Sunday, Bangladesh Ambassador in Kuwait SM Abul Kalam told the Dhaka Tribune that there are allegations against the MP of being involved in human trafficking .
Shahid’s arrest on human trafficking charges comes a little over after a week of the killing of 26 Bangladeshis in Libya by human traffickers, who were supposed to smuggle them to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea.
According to reports by Kuwait media this February, intelligence agencies arrested more than 100 people of different nationalities for their alleged involvement in human trafficking and money laundering.
The Daily Al-Qabas reported that one of the arrested suspects was a member of a three-man racket whose other members include a Bangladeshi MP, whose wife is also an MP from the seats reserved for women.
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.
The Kuwaiti media did not name the Bangladeshi MP, but the descriptions matched Shahid’s profile.
The parliamentarian is believed to have gifted five expensive cars to senior government officials in Kuwait to get government contracts for the company he runs there, the reports said.
A suspect disclosed the name of a Bangladeshi lawmaker during interrogation, the daily reported.
In conversation with officials at the Bangladesh Embassy in Kuwait, Dhaka Tribune learnt that the parliamentarian in question was Shahid.
At that time, Foreign Minister Momen described the allegations as fake news, saying that the Bangladeshi mission in Kuwait did not inform them about anything like that.
Shahid, however, is being investigated by the Anti-Corruption Commission in Bangladesh on allegations of amassing illegal wealth through human trafficking.
Mohammad Shahid Islam is a partner, managing director, and chief executive officer (CEO) of Marafie Kuwaitia Group, which operates in sectors such as engineering, contracting, and logistics and facility management in Kuwait, Oman, and Jordan.
Shahid went to Kuwait for the first time in 1992 to work for US-based Vector Marketing. He later joined Marafie Kuwaitia Company as its general manager and gradually became the managing director and CEO.
The company offers nearly a dozen different services, including facility management, rental and leasing of heavy equipment, military logistics, electro-mechanical, electrical construction and engineering and maintenance, as well as general trading and contracting, and providing human resources support services.
Sahid is also the vice-chairman at NRB Commercial Bank and chairman of the NRB Security Exchange Company in Bangladesh. He is also a director at Crystal Energy Limited (CEL) in Bangladesh, Omera Energy in Singapore, and United Al-Ektesad International Money Remittance Company.
Shahid has shares worth Tk26 crore in Diganta Media Corporation Limited, according to documents obtained by Dhaka Tribune.
Moreover, it is also alleged that he conducted businesses with Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mir Quasem Ali, who was executed for 1971 war crimes.
However, Shahid said he invested in Diganta Media Corporation Limited following a request from one of his relatives, and that it was a failed investment.
The rise of Shahid in politics
With no previous political background, Shahid suddenly appeared on the political landscape of Lakshmipur, three years prior to the 11th National Election.
In November 2016, Shahid organized a views-exchange meeting in Raipur upazila where he introduced himself as the convener of the Awami League’s Kuwait unit and launched several social and voluntary initiatives.
When Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Lakshmipur in March 2017, he received a seat on the same stage as the premier, as a guest at a public rally organized by the local Awami League.
Later, he continued to donate money for different programs organized by the ruling party's upazila and union units.
Soon, Shahid became the elected representative for Lakshmipur 2 constituency, while he also made sure that his wife Selina became a parliamentarian, thanks to reserved seats for women.
He would visit the locality on a helicopter to attract the attention of people, but Shahid claimed that his intentions were purely that of social service, and not politics.
Allegations baseless, claimed Shahid
In February, lawmaker Shahid Islam claimed that all the allegations were false and baseless.
"I have been doing business in Kuwait for the last 30 years, mostly in the supply of heavy equipment. Staff from 29 countries are employed at my companies in Kuwait," he said.
"I do not have a recruiting agency in my name in Bangladesh," he said, claiming that some people who were jealous of his success as a lawmaker were spreading misinformation and lies.
"I did return to Bangladesh on February 8, but not for any problem there [Kuwait]," Shahid added.