By Sumi Khan
Dhaka, July 7 (IANS) Bangaldesh’s Foreign Minister Dr A.K. Abdul Momen on Tuesday said that the country’s Ambassador to Kuwait, S.M. Abul Kalam, who faces allegations of involvement in human trafficking, will not be spared if Kuwait brings charges against him.
Not only the Ambassador, the Bangladesh government will not spare anybody found involved in human trafficking and money-laundering, he said.
About the allegations against the envoy, the Minister said: “The government maintains zero tolerance against money laundering and human trafficking.” Punishment is a must, no matter which party they belong to, he added.
The contractual appointment of Kalam ends this month and he will come back to Bangladesh, the minister said. “We have finalised the next Ambassador for Kuwait.”
About Independent Bangladesh lawmaker Mohammad Shahid Islam Papul, who was arrested in Kuwait on human trafficking charges and money laundering, the Foreign Minister said the Kuwait government is yet to intimate them officially, and steps will be taken as per the laws of the land after this.
On June 6, Kuwait’s Criminal Investigation Department arrested Papul on charges of human trafficking, visa trading, and money laundering and he soon landed in the jail there.
Asserting that the government is trying to stop human trafficking and money laundering, Momen that that Papul did not go to Kuwait on a government passport and was arrested by the Kuwaiti government as its citizen.
Meanwhile, Kuwaiti Army officer Maj Gen Mazen Al Jarrah, working in the Interior Ministry, has been suspended after Papul claimed that the army officer took a bribe from his company to allow his visa trading business.
Kuwait’s Deputy Chief Minister and Interior Minister Anas Al Saleh issued a decree suspending Al Jarrah,the Under Secretary in the ministry. Al Saleh told the parliament that no one found guilty in illegal visa trading will be spared. He also said that Kuwait is planning to enhance the level of punishment for human trafficking and visa trading. This comes against the backdrop of the prosecution’s demands to toughen penalties for certain offences currently classified as misdemeanours and attracting just a small fine.
Meanwhile, two Kuwaiti lawmakers have been indicted, while three others are likely to be charged in connection with the case.
Kuwait’s Attorney General has decided to keep Papul in jail, and the public prosecutor ordered his imprisonment be continued but released the owner of a company on bail of 2,000 dinars. The prosecution approached the Central Bank of Kuwait to freeze the bank accounts of Papul and his company, whose financial balance amounts to about 5 million dinars, including 3 million dinars capital.
Over the past 2 months, a number of Kuwaiti government agencies had extended more than four contracts of Papul’s companies, triggering allegations of another scam. The total value of the contracts is one million Kuwait dinars ($3.25 million), and most of them are related to cleaning work.
Papul is Managing Director and CEO of the Marafie Kuwaitia Group, whose four companies deal in general trade, contracting and cleaning of streets and buildings.
Earlier, Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) sought income tax documents of Papul, his family and his sister-in-law from the National Board of Revenue (NBR). Deputy Director of ACC Mohammad Salauddin sought the documents in connection with the law maker’s alleged involvement in money-laundering and accumulating illegal wealth.
Notice was issued to Shahid, his wife Selina Islam, daughter Kazi Wafa Islam and wife’s sister Jemin Akter, seeking their wealth statements. They have to submit their copies of passports, National Identity Cards, TINs and income tax returns within 15 days.
Besides, the ACC also served a notice to the Election Commission of Bangladesh to get the electoral affidavit of Papul and his wife.
“The ACC investigation against Papul and his family is going on and the organisation will issue letters to different organisations seeking information about the lawmaker which is a routine work,” an ACC official told IANS.