According to police, the crime took place over a decade from July 28, 2008 to September 30, 2019
Nearly three months ago the country’s anti-graft body sued 17 people, including police officers, election officials and public representatives, on charge of helping Rohingya refugees get the National Identity Cards and passports.
There has been no forward movement in the case since then raising doubts over sincerity of the Anti-Corruption Commission in pursuing a crime as serious as this. And a sudden transfer of the investigation officer who filed the case has raised even more questions.
ACC deputy assistant director Sharif Uddin, who investigated the scam since it broke out in 2019 was transferred on June 16 this year, a day after he filed the case with its Integrated District Office 2, Chattogram.
ACC officials, contacted by UNB correspondent, evaded direct answers to questions why the investigation officer was hurriedly taken off the assignment and how the case has progressed since then. Their standard response has been that they are either busy or “contact me later.”
The ACC has been reluctant in sharing any update of the stalled case with regard to the serious crime.
UNB contacted ACC director at Chattogram Mahmud Hasan on August 19, but he declined to share anything about this issue over phone.
He said "I’m not in the office today. Call me next Sunday (August 22) during office time. I can’t talk over the phone on this issue. I will talk later in detail after scrutinising the papers."
Reached by phone on August 22 he again skipped the subject. He said "I don’t have any documents about the case. You can contact the deputy director of Coordinated Office Chattogram-2 for the details as he maintained the file."
Deputy director (Public Relations) of ACC Muhammad Arif Sadeq told UNB that there is no update of the case. No new investigation officer has been appointed so far.
Asked to comment Iftekharuzzman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) said the “No matter how hard the ACC tries to pass the sudden transfer of the IO as part of its administrative process, the move will certainly make it questionable as an institution.”
In such a sensitive case where the ACC will be more active in bringing the accused under the law, their decision has given more benefits to the accused, he said.
Iftekharuzzaman further said "We have seen in our research on various issues, they (ACC) are influenced by different individuals or groups in their decision making. This is nothing new."
He said it is clear that they are trying to prolong the case through administrative decisions.
Among the accused are former inspector of Cox's Bazar SB police Ruhul Amin (now serving as officer in charge of Begumganj police station), former inspector of Cox's Bazar SB police Prbash Chandra Dhar (now working as inspector in DIG office of Rangpur), and additional regional officer of Cumilla election office Mozammel Hossain.
Ruhul Amin denied his connection with the NID Scam to UNB correspondent over the phone. He said that he will move legally after getting the documents.
Additional regional officer of Cumilla election officer Mozammel Hossain also told UNB over the phone that the allegation against him was baseless.
"I do not know why the commission has added my name to the case. I performed my duty honestly. I will face it in court," he said.
The other accused are the Rohingyas who illegally obtained Bangladeshi passports.
An ACC probe found that the accused were helping each other to acquire false NID cards and birth certificates.
According to police, the crime took place over a decade from July 28, 2008 to September 30, 2019.
So far, a total of 18 cases had been filed against nearly 200 people including the EC officials and staffs, public representatives, lawyers, police and Rohingyas while 12 cases were filed in April and 6 in June this year and more than 12 cases had remained pending for filing.
On the other hand, a total of four people have so far been arrested by police. They are ward councilor of Cox's Bazar Pourashava Javed Kaiser Muhammad Nobel and inhabitants of the area- Mizanur Rahman, Rafiqul Islam and Didarul Alam.
According to the ACC the syndicate provided more than 55,000 NIDs illegally to Rohingyas and others since 2015.
In September 2019 the anti-graft watchdog approved a regular investigation into the allegations of providing fake NIDs to Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar and Chattogram.
In 2007 and 2008 at least five laptops used by EC went missing. Also during that time the election body sold off several unserviceable laptops.
Investigators of the scam believed the forgery syndicate got hold of at least two of those laptops.
Police arrested Joynal Abedin, office assistant in Chattogram Regional Election Commission Office in November 2019 on charges of including Rohingya refugees in the electoral roll of Cox's Bazar. One of the missing laptops was also recovered from him.
Following the tip-off from Joynal, police arrested Mostafa Farook, another temporary employee of the EC, who worked as a technical support staff for updating the voter list at the Boalkhali Upazila Election Commission Office. The second laptop was found in his possession.