The DSCC ward councillor allegedly used to pick up his business and political opponents to torture them in his ‘torture cells,’ locals say
Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Ward 30 Councillor Erfan Selim had reportedly turned his residence into a networking hub for illegal business operations.
Locals alleged that Erfan, alongside his family members, was involved in land encroachment through extortion and violence.
They were accustomed to allegedly usurping entire property which had a dispute over ownership. They also occupied many markets in old Dhaka. Some dishonest officials and employees of the land office assisted them in this regard, local residents have said.
If the victims opposed them, a large group of goons led by Erfan would allegedly pick them up and torture them in one of his “torture cells”.
Political opponents of Erfan claimed that they were beaten up. Among those tortured was his own cousin Haji Pillu.
According to Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Erfan had set up a private network for internal communication through modern radio frequencies at Chan Sardar Dada Bari.
RAB recovered 38 such walkie-talkies and discovered the control room during their raid at the MP’s residence on Monday. In addition, five virtual private servers (VPS) were seized from there.
Erfan would contact his associates through the illegal walkie-talkies to keep their conversations private, the law enforcement agency says.
Also Read - Erfan Selim suspended from DSCC
During primary interrogation, Erfan said he could contact his associates through the walkie-talkies which had a range of 12 kilometres.
RAB Legal and Media Wing Director Lt Col Ashique Billah said: “Approval from the telecommunications regulator BTRC is required to use radio frequencies for private walkie-talkies, which approval Erfan Selim did not have. We are investigating the matter.”
According to locals, Erfan Selim's associates would block the entire road with walkie-talkies before entering or leaving the house.
Erfan used to follow a kind of “VIP” protocol on the road. There was no way to know if Erfan’s associates were ordinary people, or members of the law enforcement agencies, locals said.
He used to live on the third and fourth floors of the nine-storey building where the raid took place on Monday.
On the basis of Erfan’s information, law enforcement agencies found hockey sticks, handcuffs, knives, thick ropes, towels, electric shock wires and other equipment as well as drugs in a room.
The victims would be taken to the alleged torture cell at Ashik Madina Tower in Chawkbazar, where they were forced to sign documents after being subjected to physical and mental abuse.
Encroachment, extortion and terrorism
Locals claimed that Haji Selim and his son Erfan had occupied Ashik Madina Tower in Chawkbazar, Gulshan Ara City Market in Islampur and many other markets, buildings and hotels in the name of Haji Selim’s wife.
There was a residential hall of Jagannath University (JnU) students named Tibet Hall on the land of Gulshan Ara City Market in Islampur.
When Haji Selim was commissioner of the Chawkbazar area in the 1990s, the students of JnU had a clash with the businessmen of Islampur and the hall was evacuated by the police. Later the property was occupied and the market was built there, locals say.
In 2006, a committee headed by former vice-chancellor (VC) of JnU late Sirajul Islam Khan found 12 halls that were occupied by others. Tibet Hall was one of them.
A CA firm employed by JnU had also found evidence that the documents of the market were forged.
Despite repeated attempts, Dhaka Tribune could not contact Haji Selim in this regard.
Beating up political opponents
Haji Pillu, nephew of Haji Selim, was elected councillor of Ward 30 of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) during the tenure of former mayor Sayeed Khokon.
But in the last election, Haji Selim nominated his son Erfan instead of his nephew. However, Haji Pillu got the support of the Awami League. The incident led to Erfan openly beating his cousin Haji Pillu and so coming into the limelight.
On November 18, 2019, former DSCC mayor Sayeed Khokon was scheduled to inaugurate the Shaheed Haji Abdul Alim playground in Lalbagh.
However, the nameplate of the playground had the name of local MP Haji Selim. Enraged by this, Erfan's cadre group beat up Hasibur Rahman Manik, a councillor of DSCC Ward 26.
Speaking about the incident, Councillor Manik claimed that he was helpless at the time.
What led to Erfan’s arrest?
Earlier on Sunday night, a video of Lieutenant Wasif Ahmad screaming for justice before the public after being assaulted by Erfan, his bodyguard, driver and a few accomplices went viral on social media.
The attack took place in the Kalabagan bus stop area at around 7:45pm on Sunday, when the military officer protested after his motorcycle was hit by Erfan’s car, which had a parliament sticker.
On Monday, a case was filed with Dhanmondi police station accusing four people – Erfan Selim, AB Siddique Dipu, Mohammad Zahid and driver Mizanur Rahman – over the incident.
A mobile court led by RAB Executive Magistrate Sarwar Alam sentenced Erfan to a year’s imprisonment for possession of alcohol and firearms.
On Tuesday, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Shafiqul Islam said the investigation into the case over the assault of a navy officer would be conducted without any bias.
Erfan was also suspended from his post of councillor of Ward 30 under Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) on Tuesday.
Erfan is the director of his father's organization Madina Group. His father-in-law is Noakhali MP Ekramul Karim Chowdhury.