Bangladesh discovers `village of extortionists`
Last Updated: Monday, July 12, 2010, 20:50
  
Dhaka: Cracking down on rampant cell phone crimes, Bangladesh's elite security forces have zeroed in on a village, most of whose residents were found to be involved in racketeering using mobiles, officials said.

The elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) officials said they discovered a village in southwestern Rajoir sub-district to which a bulk of such crimes all over the country are traced.

"Astonishingly, most male residents of different ages ranging from 14 to 60 of the Lundhi village appeared to be involved in extortion using mobile phones... our officers during investigations in recent months found most of the extortion suspects hailed from the single village," Lieutenant Colonel Mamun Mahmud said.

Mahmud, who is the commanding officer of a RAB unit, based in Dhaka, said he believed in 80 per cent cases of such cell phone crimes in the country, the extortionists hailed from the remote village, 90 kilometers south of the capital city.

"They have set up clandestine training centres where the residents are taught how to extort money intimidating people exploiting the notoriety of particularly absconding gangsters who are hiding abroad having no link with these (Lundhi's) extortionists at least," the Army officer serving the elite anti-crime force said.

Approached for comments, Awami League lawmaker and Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan, who represents a constituency where the village is located, said he too had heard of the village, the home of an estimated 2,000 people.

"Being the MP from the area I too heard about it... but not all the people there, as you said, are involved in the crime," he said jokingly, but declined to comment further.

Mahmud said RAB officials identified 20 groups who took to extortion using mobile phones as a profession.

A number of suspects having their origin in Lundhi were arrested in the past several weeks from Dhaka as well as the village under a series of raids, he said.

Extortion using mobile phone has been a huge problem in Bangladesh since around 2001, when phone companies entered a price war and flooded the market with cheap cell phones, which were given out without proper registration.

Home Minister Sahara Khatun last week said the government planned to formulate a policy to check the rising incidents of cellphone crimes including extortion and ban its sale to youths under 18.

"We are framing a policy to be enforced in next two months to curb the crimes and misuse of cell phones," Khatun told reporters after an inter-ministerial meeting also joined by mobile phone operators.

PTI


First Published: Monday, July 12, 2010, 20:50


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