2 Kuwaiti lawmakers accused in case linked to Laxmipur MP Shahid

Two Kuwaiti lawmakers have been accused of money laundering and aiding and abetting Bangladeshi MP Mohammad Shahid Islam, who is now in custody on charges of human trafficking and money laundering, prosecution investigation revealed, Gulf News has reported.

Kuwaiti public prosecutor would demand that the parliamentary immunity of the two lawmakers be lifted, so that they can be interrogated, the Gulf News report quoted an Al Qabas newspaper source yesterday.

Earlier, Maryam Al Aqeel, the Kuwaiti minister for social affairs and minister of state for economic affairs, ordered the suspension of a senior official in the Public Manpower Authority for three months at the request of Public Prosecution based on an investigation conducted against him for his alleged involvement in human trafficking.

According to Al Qabas, Shahid Islam, lawmaker from Laxmipur-2 constituency, is part of a three-member racket whose other members include another Bangladeshi MP, whose wife is also an MP from a seat reserved for women.

Investigations revealed that two members of the Kuwaiti parliament were also involved in the case involving a Bangladeshi member of parliament, the source told Al Qabas.

Kuwait’s Public Prosecution has ordered MP Shahid Islam and another accused to be taken into custody on charges of human trafficking and money laundering and jailed for 21 days in the central prison.

“He [MP Shahid] admitted that he had handed one million Kuwaiti dinars [nearly 3 million USD] in cash to the manager of a company in exchange for bringing people from Bangladesh to Kuwait illegally. The company has government contracts,” a senior reporter of Kuwait-based Al-Rai newspaper told The Daily Star, citing official sources.

Prosecutors also ordered the custody of a director at the manpower authority and an official at the Ministry of Interior be extended pending trial, according to the Gulf News report.

A businesswoman also detained in this connection was released on bail for 2,000 Kuwaiti dinars, Al Rai newspaper reported.

MP Shahid, who goes by the alias Kazi Papul, has caused an uproar in Kuwait by revealing that high-placed officials of that country used to take bribes from him.

He made the striking admission after nine days of interrogation by Kuwaiti authorities, influential newspaper Al-Rai of the Gulf country reports.

Papul pleaded innocent after he was arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department in Kuwait on June 6.

According to the Al-Rai report, Papul also admitted to paying large sums of money to high officials including a security official. He also revealed to his interrogators that former and serving Kuwaiti lawmakers were involved in the racket.

Certain Kuwaiti quarters within the government were involved in residency trade which paved the entry of Bangladeshi workers to the Arab country in exchange for money, said the Al-Rai report published 15.

He told prosecutors of the Gulf state on Sunday that he had paid off Kuwaiti government officials through deposits to certain Kuwaiti quarters.

Papul named a senior security official as his close associate.

Lawmakers of the country demanded extensive investigation to identify everyone involved and to bring them to book.

The Anti-corruption Authority issued a statement announcing that it had begun an investigation to unearth the whole illegal nexus.

The Public Prosecution decided to continue Papul’s detention, after listening to the testimony of 11 Bangladeshis who had bribed their way into Kuwait through Papul.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Interior Minister Anas Al-Saleh in a tweet said on Saturday that “Kuwait security is a red line, and maintaining its safety is the ultimate goal. This is what we pledged to His Highness, the Amir, His Highness the Crown Prince, and His Highness the Prime Minister and the noble Kuwaiti people.”

In a statement issued on the same day, Al-Saleh said that this was one of the largest cases of human trafficking and residence for an Asian expatriate.

Combating human trafficking and illegal residence is one of the main priorities of the Ministry of Interior and the efforts made by security men made a lot of progress in terms of pursuing the suspects or in terms of reforming legislation, it said.

Investigations revealed the existence of suspicious financial transactions carried out by a network of officials with weak souls in cooperation with companies that facilitated these operations, the statement added.

Be it a government official or a prominent person, if involvement is found, they will face the investigation authorities of the Ministry of the Interior and will be referred to the Public Prosecution.

Papul and a Kuwaiti citizen co-own a big recruitment company named Marafie Kuwaitia.

He is accused of charging each foreign worker, mostly Bangladesh ones, up to 3,000 dinars in exchange for going to Kuwait.

The workers also paid huge sums to the company in exchange for renewing their residency every year.

In response to a complaint filed on February 16, Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) opened an enquiry into an allegation that Shahid Islam amassed Tk 1,400 crore by trafficking people to Kuwait and laundered the money to different countries.

Also in February, Kuwaiti media reported that three Bangladeshis were operating a human trafficking racket in the Middle Eastern country. On February 12, a report in the Arab Times said one of the three was a “member of parliament in Bangladesh”.

According to the report, the trio “occupied sensitive positions” in three major companies that brought over 20,000 Bangladeshi workers to Kuwait in exchange for an amount believed to be more than Tk 1,391.6 crore.